Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year In Pictures - Heroes are Welcomed Home

Photo courtesy of Petty Officer John Jacobs, USCG
This photo was taken at this year's Run For The Warriors® in Jacksonville, NC.  I love that this family is running together, supporting our wounded service members and military families.  This year, the kids come along for the ride.  One day, they will join in the fun and run the race themselves.

The Run For The Warriors® was created first and foremost as a means to welcome home wounded service members and honor them for their service and sacrifice. For those of you without a military background, I need to share the excitement of a typical Homecoming. 

When a battalion returns from a deployment, family and friends gather on a large, open field on the military base.  The field is filled with children, parents, husbands and wives.  Bounce houses are set up to keep the kids occupied as the frazzled parents wait.  Music plays, food is served and the cameras are ready.  It might be early morning, afternoon, evening or the middle of the night.  When the service members arrive in their buses, each family member and service member frantically searches the crowd for their loved ones. There are hundreds of people greeting each other, hugging, kissing and crying.

Now imagine the “homecoming” of a wounded service member.  They are pulled out of a battle field and transported to a series of bases until they arrive at a medical facility.  No music plays, no food is served and certainly, no one is waving with excitement.  The only cameras clicking are MRI and x-ray machines.  Fear replaces the excitement.

In 2006, a group of Marine wives held the first Run For The Warriors® at Camp Lejeune to change all of that.  The event opened with a ceremony to honor a group of wounded Marines and to give them the Homecoming they deserved.  That particular day, it was cold and rainy. However, thousands of runners and family members did not care.  They clapped, cheered, cried and celebrated their wounded heroes that morning.  

Each year, this race continues with more and more people who attend to race, participate and honor.  And true to its beginning, the race always begins with a ceremony to welcome our heroes home.

To learn more, visit our Run web page.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Year In Pictures - Rebuilding Ground Zero

When we reflect on the events of 9/11, so often we focus on the people who worked in those buildings and their families.  Within our organization, we reflect on the impact of 9/11 on our military men and women.  However, how many people think about the workers who had to clean up after this tragedy and rebuild?

The Ground Zero Independence Ride was created in 2002 as a means of healing for the many workers who were tasked with clearing debris left from 9/11.  The ride is planned and organized with the support of unions throughout the New York metropolitan area.

In keeping with the goals for this ride, funds raised are always donated to nonprofits that focus on strengthening families.  Hope For The Warriors® has been proud to be involved with this event for the last two years.

In this photo, you see the start of the Ground Zero Independence Ride.  You can also see in the background the construction equipment that is being used to rebuild the area.  This photo has more "clutter" in it than many of the other photos that I have posted and that is precisely why I love it.  Although the area around Ground Zero is busy and congested, the absence of the towers has left a hole in the city.  Many of the people you see on these motorcycles are the men responsible for rebuilding the towers.  With this ride, they also intend to mend families.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year In Pictures - Texas Size Weekend

Photo provided courtesy of Richard Hall Photography
Every year in the beginning of October, I make the short drive to Tyler, TX for the Texas Wounded Warrior Celebrity Pro-Am Weekend.  This event, held by the nonprofit group, Texas Wounded Warrior, honors wounded service members for their service and sacrifice.  It also introduces many of these service members to the therapeutic game of golf. 

The weekend begins with the Military Flyover on Saturday afternoon and as this photo shows, it is nothing short of spectacular.  A Gala follows the air show and then on Sunday and Monday, the guys hone their skills in the game of golf.  

Each year, this events seems to get bigger and better.  I can't wait for 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Year In Pictures - Hope Women--Mothers to the World

George W. Bush at the Warrior Open
This photo is not the best quality but I love the moment it captured.  This October, Hope For The Warriors® was invited to the Warrior Open, a golf tournament for wounded warriors, hosted by former President George W. Bush.  We were one of only four nonprofit organizations highlighted at this event.  It was amazing!

There were several service members competing in this event that we have worked with in the past including the young man to the right of Bush.  That is Nick Bradley and he has attended two golfing events with Hope For The Warriors®.

And why does Nick have that half-amused, half-surprised look on his face?  In this photo, you see Bush with the two warriors who are about to tee-off.  There are thousands of people watching, news camera, reporters, secret service and more.  None of this stopped Robin, Peggy and myself from yelling out to Nick, "Get closer to the president, we're taking your picture!"  Then we got the other warrior's attention.  And oh yeah, Bush's attention too.  And we actually made them stop and look our way, so that we could get a photo of our Nick, next to the president.

He was embarrassed at the time but someday, he will thank us!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Year In Pictures - Sold!

Photo courtesy of Paul Oberle
When we asked Jay to be our emcee for the 2011 Got Heart, Give Hope Gala, we knew he was the man for the job.  Anyone who has heard him speak can attest to the power of his words, voice and emotions.  What I did not know was how amazing he would be as our Gala's auctioneer.  He did more than just lead the auction--he owned that stage!  I guess this proves that if you can lead on the battlefield, you can lead anywhere else too.

I love this photo of Jay as he takes command of everyone is the room.  Jay is also the founder and executive director of Wounded Wear, a nonprofit that provides clothing and clothing modifications for wounded service members. 

Jay has also recently taped a public service announcement for Hope For The Warriors®.  Here is a small thank you clip that was also filmed that day. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Year In Pictures - Hope Learns To Rock!

Rockstar Mayhem Tour 2011
This is just a fun picture.  In this photo are the members of the band Godsmack, staff members from our North Carolina office and service members from the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.  I borrowed this photo from the Rockstar Mayhem Blog.

Hope For The Warriors® was proud to be included in this year's Rockstar Mayhem Tour.  Their "Metal of Honor" Tour highlighted the needs and challenges of our wounded service members and today's military family.  Thanks to the producers of this tour, more than 125 service members and military family members attended concerts in 17 different cities.  All together, the tour raised more than $25,000 for Hope For The Warriors® while raising awareness to thousands of fans and concert goers.  Thank you to John and Elenie Reese for making a difference to so many military families!

To learn more, view this PSA, created for the tour and shown at every concert this summer. My favorite part is the quote recited by the lead singer of the band Disturbed, "Scars remind us of where we've been.  They do not need to dictate where we are going."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Year In Pictures - In Honor Of

A runner at the 9/11 Run For The Warriors® , held in Wallace, NC this past September.
Photo provided courtesy of Jon Althouse
In each of the races in our Run For The Warriors® series, people have the opportunity to wear these extra bibs on their backs.  As you pass other runners, or they pass you, there is a constant reminder that you are doing more than just participating in a local event.  In each race, you are honoring those that serve and running in memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

We do not need to see and read these special bibs to honor the men and women in our military.  Especially on Christmas Day, as you celebrate with your family and friends, I hope that you remember the sacrifices made by our military families. Remember both the service members in Afghanistan and their families--spouses, children, parents and more--all who wish the entire family was together.  Remember the families of the fallen.  For many, their pain is more intense during the holidays and we pray for strength for each family member.  And of course, we pray that each service member now deployed comes home free from harm.

Merry Christmas to all!

Photo provided courtesy of Paul Oberle.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Year In Pictures - The Big Catch

At the end of July, Hope For The Warriors was invited to join elite anglers for the Bassmaster Elite Series Toyota Tundra All-star week in Montgomery, Alabama.  This was the second year that we were a part of this event and this year, we invited six wounded service members and veterans to attend as part of our Outdoor Adventures Program. 

The veteran in this photo had almost backed out of the trip.  The thought of coming on the trip, socializing with a lot of new people, and garnering attention from crowds was overwhelming to him. 

On the second day, the guys were paired up with their anglers and went out on the bass boats.  As the tournament time was up and the boats were docked, each service member pulled out their largest catch. 

Clearly, this photo depicts the winning catch of the day.  The bass weighed 8-pounds, 7-ounces and was by far, the largest bass caught that day.

But this veteran's smile caught my attention.  Here he stands, relaxed and proud--exactly the way he should feel after a fun and theraputic day of fishing.  He was a completely different man than the person we had met less than 24 hours before.

Another great trip to Alabama!

Read more here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Year In Pictures - Rollin' Along

Photo provided courtesy of Paul Oberle.

The smile on both of their faces tells the story.  This photo was taken along a country road in the middle of New Jersey.  The veteran had just received this donated handcycle and was going on his first ride as Jenlene, our Team Hope For The Warriors® Director ran along.  These handcycles can go extremely fast and so this athlete was being kind--going slow enough for someone to run alongside him.  He has now returned with his young family and the handcycle to his upstate New York home where there are many miles of country road for him to reach top speeds. 

I am a firm believer that if everyone exercised, everyone would be happier and the world would be a better place.  I offer their expressions as evidence of this belief.

In 2011, Hope For The Warriors® facilitated the donation of 23 pieces of adaptive equipment to our service members at a cost of more than $65,000.  Donations came from:  Deer Park Lions Club, FDNY VFW,  Ground Zero Independence Ride, Haskell Family of Long Island, Jordan's Initiative, Siller Foundation, Tee It Up For The Troops,  Yorktown Heights Community, Zilinski Memorial Fund and directly from our organization.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wreaths Across America - A View From The Inside

It was too early on a wintry Saturday morning when I began my journey to Arlington National Cemetery. Upon arrival, I marveled at the Wreaths Across America production – the semi-trailer trucks designated to each section, ensuring the perfect amount of wreaths, and the coordination of thousands of volunteers. My tendency toward perfectionism compelled me to grab all of the wreaths and try to complete the project.

I squashed the nagging feeling and breathed in the cool air, looked over the Cemetery, and reminded myself about the gravity of the day. I recalled this special privilege to honor our military. As I passed World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and Korean veterans, prisoners of war and Purple Heart recipients, my humility grew.

After making a few wrong turns, and thoroughly spanning the area, Section 60 stared at me. I prepared myself to see graves of young service members and subsequently watched as a young girlfriend mourned the loss of her fallen warrior. She cried hysterically and fell to the ground as she remembered the life they shared together. Tears filled my eyes as I publicly observed this personal moment. I privately began to pray and moved on, allowing her to grieve without an audience.

I laid my first wreath and silently thanked this hero for his service, sacrifice, and dedication to protecting our freedoms. So many thoughts flashed through my mind – wondering about everything this man had experienced and everything his comrades had experienced.

The day was overwhelming and humbling. Most importantly, it was an honor. I will forever remember the details from the day, the stories shared, and the thousands of volunteers – from 5 to 85 years old. It may be trite, but I was truly proud to be an American.

Year In Pictures - A Smile at Mile 26.2

Photo provided courtesy of Paul Oberle.

Paul and Sally Kelly have done so much for Hope For The Warriors®, I could do an entire blog on their efforts and their impact.  As a matter of fact, here is Paul's blog if you would like to read more.  Together, the couple has raised more than $38,000 for Hope For The Warriors®

Beyond the fact that they raise funds and awareness, both Paul and Sally have become mentors to other athletes.  Paul, a quadriplegic, competes on a handcycle and has helped new service members who are still adapting to the equipment.  Sally has supported Team efforts and trained with other members to help them reach their race goals.

For the past several years, Paul has raced in countless marathons and Sally has raced in shorter distances, including several half marathons.  In 2010, she helped a teammate from Team Hope For The Warriors® train and complete her first marathon.  After that, Sally decided that she too would join the ranks of marathon finishers.

This photo shows Sally after she completed the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon and her smile says it all.  She completed her first marathon at an age that many Americans are thinking about retirement and taking life easy.  And not only was her first marathon inspiring, she place 30th in her age group out of 90.  An amazing accomplishment for a first marathon and in such a huge marathon.

As a sidenote, not only could I do an entire blog on Paul and Sally, I could also do an entire blog on members of Team Hope For The Warriors®.  To see more incredible photos of amazing people, I encourage you to "Like" out Team Facebook page. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Year In Pictures - A Father's Reward

Yes this man is holding a Hope & Courage Award from Hope For The Warriors®.  Yes, he is on stage with Gary Sinise and John Vigiano, two incredible men.  But there is no doubt in my mind what the true award is for this moment.  Every one of us should be so lucky to have our young daughter look at us with such admiration and love.  And if I remember correctly, she went on stage with him in her bare feet.  This was one of my favorite moments of the Got Heart, Give Hope Gala this year. 

Photo provided courtesy of Paul Oberle.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Year In Pictures

Each year, Life Magazine highlights their "Year In Pictures" and it is always one of my favorite reviews of the year.  With that in mind, for the next few days, I will post a photo each day.  I have different reasons for posting these photos--some amuse me, others inspire me.  I hope that you enjoy the memories surrounding these photos as much as I do.

There are two photographers in particular that I will be posting many photos from.  John Althouse is a freelance photographer in Jacksonville, NC and does a great job covering many of our races and events.  Paul Oberle is a photographer for the Department of Defense.  He also happens to be the boyfriend of our Team Hope For The Warriors® Director.

We are so lucky to have two talented people help our organization.  You will also see photos taken by me or other amateurs.  I hope that these lower quality images are still inspiring to you.

And now for a photo that has nothing to do with Hope For The Warriors® but still inspires me.

Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry shakes Obama's hand after receiving the Medal of Honor.
Full article found here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Simulator Helps Families Understand PTSD

This news report highlights a new simulator program to help families understand PTSD.  Many of our service members return from war, struggling with PTSD and traumatic brain injury.  These hidden wounds affect the entire family--spouses, children, parents, and more.

The simulator is the first of its kind and the goal is to prepare families to manage their new life with a wounded service member.

The creator of the simulator shares--"These families are very nervous, scared in fact, about saying the wrong thing or not saying anything at all."

At this point, we do not know how successful this program will be in helping individuals understand and manage PTSD within their family.  The Lopez family, highlighted in this segment, is hopeful that this program will give them tools to begin the healing process.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday's Photo

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

John and Manny at their first triathlon.

And a special addition this Friday, a short thank you video from Manny.  A longer PSA is in the works right now too.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Charity Navigator Rates--Military Families Review

It is amazing that in the last few weeks of this blog, I have not yet written about Charity Navigator.  Charity Navigator is a nonprofit organization that evaluates charities in the areas of fiscal responsibility and accountability.  Under their mission statement, they write:

"Charity Navigator works to guide intelligent giving. We help charitable givers make intelligent giving decisions by providing information on over five thousand charities and by evaluating the financial health of each of these charities. We ensure our evaluations are widely used by making them easy to understand and available to the public free of charge. By guiding intelligent giving, we aim to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace, in which givers and the charities they support work in tandem to overcome our nation's most persistent challenges."

When Hope For The Warriors® earned a Four-Star Rating on the site, we were ecstatic.  Their rating proved what we already knew--that donated dollars go to the miltary families that we support, not to expensive salaries and marketing plans.

The site also invites people to review nonprofits and today I went to the site to see if any new reviews had been added.  As I write this blog, we have 53 reviews.  They have been written by board members, volunteers, sponsors and professionals.  But the reviews that mean the most to me are those written by service members and family members that we have supported.  The words on the screen stand as proof that the work we do at Hope For The Warriors® makes a difference to military families everywhere.  When I have a difficult day, I will go to that site, and read these reviews.

Here are just some of the reviews:

"I am a combat wounded Marine, and I have had my life turned upside down. I had everything that I knew and planned for taken from me. The devastating effect that has on your morale is epic. Hope For The Warriors® gave me a reprieve from the daily struggle that is living with a combat injury, and more than that, they showed me how much people care about us. The country will forever be scarred by how the Vietnam Veterans were received, but it says something that we learned from that mistake. It also reinforces to us combat wounded that we are not forgotten. Which means more than most will ever understand. I contacted a few of the people that helped me over a year later and they still remembered me. That sort of personal connection is hardly even heard of in other 'industries' and I feel it really says something about the level that Hope For The Warriors® actually cares about the vets they serve."  

"I was lucky enough to be able to attend fleet week with the Hope For The Warriors® and was extremely pleased. This was my first trip that I had taken with any organization since my injury and I am glad that I was able to work with the Hope For The Warriors® staff. Throughout the stay they far exceed my expectations and were very well organized. Every single aspect of this trip was thought out in extreme detail to ensure that every person was able to enjoy their time no matter what we were doing. I would highly recommend this organization to people that are wanting to donate as well as to people that have been injured and are wanting to go on a very fun trip. It helps all of us injured service members get reintegrated back into society after our long medical needs. "

"I can't even focus on a starting point to express my grattitude to Hope For The Warriors®. This organization has that sparkle and magic that instantly creates that family bond with servicemembers who often have an empty hole or void from within. They have not only taken care of me, my entire family has been pulled up under their wing of hope. Any event that I was priviledged enoough to be a part of Hope For The Warriors® far exceeded any expectations. They give you that special moment that the average family would not be able to afford or do the logistical leg work to make it happen."                       

Read the entire profile here.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hope For The Holidays

Christmas is an amazing time of year for children.  Even when children get past the age of believing, there is always hope and excitement surrounding this day. 

For parents, the feelings can be very different.  The shopping and searching for that perfect gift can be very stressful.  As we shop, we wonder--am I buying too little or too much? Will my kids like their gifts?  Will these gifts mean something to them a few months from now?

When a family is having financial difficulties, Christmas can be even more stressful.  Then the parents start to wonder--how can I pay for this or how are we going to put anything under the tree?

Many of our military families are already struggling during a time of transition and uncertainty.  We want to ensure that the holiday season is a celebration for the entire family, not a source of stress.

This year, Hope For The Warriors® has created the Holiday Giving Initiative.  We are matching up families that need assistance with families or companies that would like to donate to make this holiday time special.  We have 13 families in need that we are still trying to match with a donor.

We are running out of time!  We have set a deadline of December 16 so that we can get the Visa gift cards to these families and give them enough time to purchase gifts for their children.  If you would like to help, please let us know today!

To learn more, email Leslie Hunt.  To donate, visit our donation page and include "Holiday Giving Initiative" in the comments.

Thank you and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tunnel to Towers and Team Hope For The Warriors®

For ten years now, the Tunnel to Towers Race has been held in New York City at the end of September.  It repeats the steps that firefighter Stephen Siller ran on 9/11. He rushed from the entrance of the Brooklyn Tunnel, on foot and in full gear, to the towers in hopes to join his fellow firefighters.  He made it to the towers and died with so many other heroes that day.

The Siller family has carried on his name and they are without a doubt, an incredible family.  They are generous and energetic--proud of their brother and proud of our service members.  And they really know how to take care of those service members.

Team Hope For The Warriors® joins in this event each year at the start of the race.  Before the race begins, one of our wounded service members is donated a handcycle from the Siller Family.  That handcycle will enable that warrior to embrace their competitive spirit and once again by defined by their accomplishments, not their injuries.

Another major project of The Siller Foundation is building homes for severely wounded service members.  They have plans to build several homes in 2012 for service members who are multiple amputees--most have three or four amputations.  Hope For The Warriors® has partnered with the Siller Foundation to furnish each one of the homes.

I write about this today because a fellow blogger, Roger Stradley, highlighted our organization in his blog yesterday.  To read more about the Siller Foundation and their work, visit his blog.

A Member of our Team at the start of the Tunnel to Towers Race
Photo provided courtesy of Paul Oberle.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Wish to Help Others

I am always surprised by the range of Wishes that Hope For The Warrirors® grants through our A Warrior's Wish® program.  In 2011 alone, we have sent a couple on a vacation, bought a bass boat, and supported someone on the U.S. Paralympic Team by giving him more archery equipment.  Some Wishes are more practical--we have renovated bathrooms to make them handicap accessible and purchased beds that can finally help some of our wounded sleep comfortably.

One of my favorite Wishes this year involves a man and his new service dog.  Carlos suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and chronic pain.  After two years, he felt useless as a father, husband and as a man.  This was definitely a man lacking hope in his life.

The organization Freedom Dogs approached Carlos with the offer to pair him with a service dog, specifically trained to help veterans with PTSD.  Carlos reluctantly agreed and was introduced to Logan.  Almost immediately, he began to feel more comfortable interacting with family and friends.  With Logan by his side, he could even go into crowded areas again.

Carlos and Logan, his service dog

Logan changed this man's life and his Wish to Hope For The Warriors® was to have that same impact on others by becoming a certified service dog trainer.  His Wish was for financial assistance in paying for the program.  We received a donation from MSA Security, a company that specializes in the use and training of dogs for security.  Staff within our Above & Beyond Program worked with Carlos on his application for this program as well.

I love that this man's Wish is ultimately to help others.  He knows firsthand how much a service dog can help someone suffering from PTSD.  He understands that by helping others, he will also be helping himself and his family even more.  When Carlos finishes his training, I hope to update all of you on his progress.

Feedback Needed
Can you recommend any other organizations that trains service dogs to work with our guys with PTSD?  I would love to get some feedback on the great work that some of these organizations are doing.  I also would like to know if this is something that you tried and it did not work.  I do not want to pretend that the use of service dogs is the answer for every person.  When it comes to PTSD, I do not believe that there is a quick fix for everyone.

Feel free to e-mail me directly:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Veteran Derek Hughes with his daughter.
Photo provide courtesy of Paul Oberle.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Golf Tournament in Florida Connects New Veterans with Vietnam Veterans

Last Saturday, the Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Florida held a golf tournament to raise funds for Hope For The Warriors®.  It was an extremely successful event that raised more than $33,000 for our organization.

Our Florida Project Coordinator, Mirka, attended with two combat wounded veterans, Keith Bisig and Bobby Joseph.  They had a great time, met so many wonderful people and had a great day of golf.

When Mirka recapped her day for me, she shared the greatest highlight of the event.  In the morning, she was given the opportunity to speak to the group and talk about Hope For The Warriors®.  At one point in her speech, she addressed the other veterans in the group, specifically veterans from the Vietnam War.  She thanked them for their service and promised that today's veterans will never be treated in the same manner.

Throughout the day, Mirka was approached by so many veterans, many who had fought in Vietnam.  They were honored by her words and the recognition she gave them.  And Mirka was overwhelmed by their gratitude towards her and Hope For The Warriors®.  She admitted that it had been a very emotional day for her--completely due to the generosity of the club members.

Hope For The Warriors® thanks the members of the Bear Lakes Country Club.  Thank you for joining us in our mission!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Your Donations can do for Military Families

As promised, below is a list of how your $10, $25, $50 and $100 donation will help wounded service members and military families.  Like I said before, I don’t like to look at donations this way.  I believe that everyone’s donation together makes a significant impact.  However, I recognize that for some people, this is what they like to see.

Hope For The Warriors® offers a full cycle of care from bedside to reintegration and beyond.  We offer ten distinct programs for combat wounded service members, their families, and families of the fallen.

Our military families incur many expenses while they stay at or near military medical centers, never leaving their wounded service member’s side.  Many of these expenses are low in dollar amount but add up very quickly as the days extend to weeks.  At the same time, parents and spouses have left their jobs to become full-time caregivers.

Beyond the medical centers, our programs address the needs of our military families as they take their steps towards recovery. 

Hope For The Warriors® uses your $10 donation to:
  • Pay for meals at the hospital cafeteria
  • Cover the expense of laundry service
  • Provide basic necessities, toiletries and more
  • Supply our athletes with gels/drinks while competing in marathons and other races
  • Covers the expense of shipping key supplies to military families throughout the country
  • Contribute towards a larger expense that will support our military families
Hope For The Warriors® uses your $25 donation to:
  • Race registration fee for a wounded service member returning to sports for rehabilitation
  • School supplies for a spouse returning to college, preparing to take on the role of “breadwinner”
  • Groceries to stock a small kitchen, near a military medical hospital
  • An association membership to support networking opportunities in a new career field
  • A Team jersey for a service member on Team Hope For The Warriors®
  • Hope For The Warriors® golf shirt for a warrior learning this rehabilitative sport
  • Contribute towards a larger expense that will support our military families
Hope For The Warriors® uses your $50 donation to:
  • A cell phone to use while in an inpatient program
  • A cycling helmet for a handcyclist
  • Gas cards to travel to hospital visits, events and races
  • A text book for a spouse returning to school
  • Household items for the Warrior House
  • Holiday gifts for children
  • Contribute towards a larger expense that will support our military families
Hope For The Warriors® uses your $100 donation to:
  • Keep the electricity turned on for a military family
  • Purchase professional clothing for a service member transitioning to a civilian career
  • Provide an athlete with a pair of running or cycling shoes
  • Household supplies for a temporary home near a medical center
  • Groceries for a wounded service member and his/her family
  • Contribute towards a larger expense that will support our military families

Run For The Warriors® Wins Event of the Year in Onslow County

Today was the annual "Artie" Awards, given by Onslow County Tourism.  We are excited to announce that the Run For The Warriors®, held each year in May, won the Event of the Year for the fourth time.

Thank you to Justein Henry--our amazing public relations coordinator who did an excellent job writing about this event.  Thank you to Peggy Rochon and to the staff in the North Carolina office for pulling together the board and all of the other materials so quickly.  Side note--did everyone know that Peggy is a talented scrapeboooker too.  Who knew?!

Finally, thank you to the people of Onslow County and to the military families at Camp Lejeune.  Thank you for embracing your service members, the military families, the families of the fallen and Hope For The Warriors®.  Our organization could not assist so many families without your dedication.

See you in May 2012 for the next Run For The Warriors®!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Runner in the Long Island Run For The Warriors® leaves no man behind.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Give Back This Thanksgiving--Article Includes Hope For The Warriors®

Last week Wednesday, I received an email from  For Thanksgiving, they wrote an article about charities worth donating to and asked for information on Hope For The Warriors®.  I was given a very short turnaround time to submit how someone’s $10 or $25 donation could help the military families we serve. Read the full article here.

This is a common request which I don’t actually like.  We are proud of the people who donate to us, even if they can only donate a small amount.  After all, if every American gave just $1, imagine what a difference that could make.  However, to tell someone specifically what THEIR $10 will do is completely different.  When you follow the link to the article, you will see part of what I submitted to this reporter.  In the next few days, I will post a more extensive list on this blog.

There are two other important parts of this story however.  First, the reason this reporter contacted us was because of Hope For The Warriors® Four-star rating on Charity Navigator and because we are number one on the list of “Highly Rated Military and Veteran Charities with the Most Reviews.”  This Four-Star Rating has been key in getting us increased attention.  I love that so many people are educated on the nonprofit organizations that they donate to rather than just giving to the organization with the flashy, high-priced commercial.

The second lesson in this article is that is a website that has political leanings to the left.  So often, there is a belief that our military families are supported solely by those on the right side of the political spectrum.  However, this reporter included veterans’ causes in his article with complete sincerity and insight into the sacrifices of our military members.  This is a great reminder that the military families we serve, our supporters, and the Hope For The Warriors® staff, hold a wide spectrum of political views and yet each join us in our mission to ensure “no sacrifice forgotten, nor need unmet.” 

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I am Thankful for Today

If you are on Facebook, you have seen the daily posts this month --"Today I am thankful for..." etc.  I have not participated in this, however, today I will share one.

My brother-in-law Andrew reached out to me this morning and to Hope For The Warriors®.  A close friend's son was severely wounded overseas and has just been sent to one of the medical centers in the Washington, D.C. area.  Andrew reached out to me personally, hoping that we would be able to help this family.

At this point, this family is in so much pain emotionally, I am sure that they do not fully understand what their needs will be.  I quickly e-mailed several staff members in our northern Virginia office.  These staff members regularly visit the medical centers and this family is now on their list of people to visit on their next visit.

On my own, I can pray for this Marine and his family.  But today, I am thankful that I have an entire organization to call when our military families need help. 

I cannot protect our young service members from these tragic events.  However, when something does occur, I do not have to feel helpless.  I know who I can turn to and get help for this military family.  If you are reading this, then you do not need to feel helpless either.  To learn more about how we support military families, visit the Hope For The Warriors® website.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Keith, John and Manny have fun during the NJ Run For The Fallen.
Photo provided courtesy of Paul Oberle.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day seems to lack an identity and value within our culture.  The day is so often eclipsed by the “bigger holiday” and is viewed as the first day of the Christmas season.  I am sure that I am not the only one who has heard Christmas music in the stores in the beginning of November and thought “Ugh--That shouldn’t start until Thanksgiving!”  Many of us start our Thanksgiving morning watching the parade on TV, listening to Christmas music and start the serious planning of our Christmas shopping.  Poor Thanksgiving Day cannot compete with a jolly fat man in a red suit.  There is nothing sexy or cute about pilgrims and the turkey just puts us all to sleep.   And even when we want to fight the “Christmas Cycle,” the commercials and stores have us thinking about what to give and what we want to receive.

Every Thanksgiving I am reminded of my Mother.  It was her favorite day of the year and because of her, it is also my favorite day.  It is the one day of the year designated by the United States Government to stop and give thanks.  No—not just say you are giving thanks—REALLY give thanks.  Thanks to family, friends, neighbors, maybe even strangers.  Another great thing about Thanksgiving—even though many people thank God on this day, it is actually a secular holiday.  So no matter who you see, you can wish them a “Happy Thanksgiving” and know that this will apply to them.  Who among us, after all, does not want to take a day to be thankful? 

Americans are doing a great job telling our veterans that they are thankful for their service.  Our troops are not treated as our Vietnam Veterans were—and for that, we are definitely thankful.  However, in the effort to make our veterans feel like heroes, there is a growing concern that people feel sorry for them.  In a recent article in the Washington Post “Troops Feel More Pity Than Respect” the journalist outlines some growing concerns for our wounded community.

On Veterans Day, Hope For The Warriors® kicked off its Giving Thanks campaign.  Corporations are encouraged to include our organization in the Holiday Party planning and individuals will be asked to consider a donation as part of their year-end giving.  But in all of our communication and our actions, we will be sure that we reflect not just thankfulness but also respect for our wounded service members. 

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my health, my ability to run, my children and my family and my friends.  I am thankful for a job that I not only enjoy, but feel like I am making a difference.  And of course, I am thankful to our service members—their service, sacrifices, strengths and resiliency. 

I hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving Week!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What does Running have to do with Veterans Anyway?

I love to run.  It is a sport that is individual and personal and yet, when I cross paths with another runner during my morning trek, I feel an instant connection.  I have attended parties, feeling lost because I knew no one, until I found another person wearing a race T-shirt.  Introduce me to another runner, and we will have an instant conversation.  No matter the speed they run or the distance.

It should surprise no one that for the past two years for Veterans Day, I ran a race that honors our nation’s veterans.  The Rockledge Rumble in Grapevine, TX, has been going strong for 16 years.  Participants choose from a 15K, 30K and 50K.  The trail is hilly, filled with rocks and roots, and branches have been known to hit you in the face.

Before the race, there is a ceremony where every single combat veteran from every single conflict is called forward to be honored.  The pledge is recited and the Star Spangle Banner sung.  For me, it is a joy to be in the midst of a group that loves this country and doesn’t take our privileged life for granted. 

The race itself is personal and I don’t know how other runners relate their run to our veterans.  For me, I compare my aches and pains, my doubts and my strength, to our young service members.  If I stumble, I know someone in battle has stumbled.  On hot days, I know that the men and women in Iraq have withstood even hotter days.  On cold days, I think of our Korean veterans and the bitter temperatures they endured.

The best (and worst) part of this race is the end.  In the last half mile, the racer leaves the shelter of the woods and the well-marked trails.  Now out in the open, the fierce winds hit as you navigate along the rocky, uneven and course beach of the lake.  Legs carry you towards a finish line that you cannot see.  At the very end is the steep, daunting staircase that everyone has warned you about.  The announcer uses binoculars to find your race number and as you reach that staircase, he is already calling you up by name.  My pride will not allow me to take the steps slowly and I use the last of my energy to storm up the stairs…and swear at the announcer.  I hate and love the end of this race.
The bottom of the stairs--Rockledge Rumble 2010

It should be shared that the race director lines that staircase with American Flags.  There are 20 steep and deep steps.  In past years, he has placed signs on each step—last year, he listed each war and conflict and the number of American killed in action.  Two years ago, the victims of the Fort Hood shooting were listed on each step.  This year, the stairs are left naked, but the flags flap in the wind and at the top of the stairs, the finish line is marked with a flag from each branch of service.  From start to finish, the race honors our veterans.  Thank you to Tom and the organizers of this great event.
Almost done!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Country singer, James Wesley, and I listen to Ryan Voltin's story

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Life-Changing Postcard

Veterans Day at Frito-Lay

This year for Veterans Day, I was invited to the headquarters of Frito-Lay, located in Plano, TX.  The company did an outstanding job honoring our nation's veterans and providing their staff the opportunity to learn how they can support veterans locally and nationwide.  Hope For The Warriors® joined other nonprofit organizations for this event.

The guest speaker was Rocky Bleier--best known as a former National Football League halfback with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He played for the Steelers in 1968, and then from 1971 to 1980.  In that time, he earned four Superbowl Rings.

Rocky Bleier with Anne Woods, wearing his Superbowl Rings

Although his football career made him a legend, Rocky is more than just another football player from the past.  His time between 1968 and 1971 was spent in Vietnam.  He was drafted into the Army and in August 1969, while on patrol in Heip Duc, Bleier was hit in the left thigh by a rifle bullet.  Down in a rice paddy, an enemy grenade landed near him sending shrapnel into his lower right leg.  Rocky was pulled out of Vietnam and transported to a hospital in Tokyo for his recovery.

As he laid in his hospital bed in Tokyo, his doctors told him that he would never play football again.  Defeated and depressed, he wondered what he would do next.

And then came a turning point in his life.  Art Rooney, owner of the Steelers sent a postcard and all it said was "Rock - the team's not doing well.  We need you."

Rocky shared how this single postcard changed his entire outlook, his recovery and his life.  Less than 10 words on a small rectangle.  But those 10 words made him feel needed, valuable, and strong again.

Today, we rarely send postcards.  This form of communication has been replaced by e-mails, phone calls, and text messages.  Rocky's story is a great reminder of how important our words are to our wounded service members.  Do we look at their wounds and believe that their life will never be great, that they will never reach new goals?  Or do we look to our service members, knowing that the strength that led them into military service, can lead them down great new paths?  Do we pity them, or are we proud of them?  And as an employer, do we look past them or do we recognize their skills and hire them?

Veterans Day is about more than just thanking our veterans for their past service.  It is also about believing in their future worth.