Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Has Us Jumping!

I admit that my title is corny, however, I could not pass up the opportunity to make the jumping connection.  And what sport do people jump in?  Basketball of course!

Tomorrow in St. Louis will begin the Arch Madness, Missouri Valley Tournament.  The tournament includes 10 schools from the midwest and will culminate in the final game on Sunday, March 4.

Saturday at 3:30 pm, between the two games, Robin Kelleher, our president, will be interviewed.  This great opportunity was made possible by a new partnership with Casey's General Stores

Robin might also be interviewed a few other times throughout the day.  If you live in the midwest, watch for her on Fox Sports Kansas City, Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports Indiana and Comcast Sports Net Chicago.

Photos provided courtesy of Paul Oberle.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Immediate Needs--an Important Program No One Knows About

I often say that Immediate Needs is the most important program that we manage that people know very little about.  It is important because it assists our military families when they are at their most vulnerable and it is often through an immediate needs case that we are first introduced to a new family. 
“Our Immediate Needs program works daily with wounded service members, their families and families of the fallen to meet immediate financial needs resulting from a service member’s combat related injury.  Travel, lengthy hospital stays, loss of income and unexpected expenses create financial burdens for families during a vulnerable and uncertain time in their life. “

Why does no one know about it?  Well, it is difficult to capture this program in a picture.  How do you show a caregiver getting help at bedside, the lights being kept on, a family staying in their home, or food on the table?

In January alone, our Immediate Needs department worked on 88 specific Immediate Needs cases.  To understand how much work this involves, I need to stress that it is not simply a program of hearing the problem and writing a check.  As each case is opened, we connect with the service member’s command (if active duty), the VA caseworker and/or a medical professional.  The goal is not to just write a check for a “quick fix.”  That solves nothing and if a family cannot pay rent this month, and nothing changes, they will have the same problem next month.  Each case requires us to delve into details of benefits, medical concerns and more.  The goal is to assist the family in the short-term while still looking to the future.
I am very proud of our Immediate Needs Program and I wish that I could find a photo to represent what is accomplished.   So instead, I have included a photo of just one military family, together and smiling.  After all, isn’t that the real end result?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Paul Kelly competes in the 2012 Myrtle Beach Marathon

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Amazing Work of the VFW

In the late afternoon, on December 22, I received a call from a friend, asking for help for his neighbor.  The neighbor's son is a young Marine, now a double amputee, in rehabilitation at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC).  He was coming home the next day for Christmas and the father suddenly realized that getting his son's wheelchair into the home would be difficult.  My friend was calling me for help. 

I looked at the date and the time and was lost.  We support wounded service members and their families, but I don't know how to build a ramp.  I called my President, Robin, who shared several ideas.  Her strongest advice:  "Call the local VFW first.  They are an amazing group and they can probably help you."

It was past 6 p.m. when I called the VFW in Plano--the Casey Joyce Post 4380 and the phone was immediately answered.  I went up the chain of command within the Post and before I knew it, I was speaking with Marty Nell, the Post Commander.  I told him what I needed, and when I needed it.  There was no hesitation in Marty's voice when he told me that building a ramp would be no problem.

The next day, one of the members, Steve, called me.  He was prepared to build whatever ramp the home would need.  And he did just that.  He was at the home and putting a ramp in place less than 24 hours after I called the Post.  The Marine had just come home and Steve had the great honor of meeting this young man in person.

Presenting Steve, and the VFW Plano with
a small "thank you" gift
I spoke with Steve on the phone, offering that Hope For The Warriors® pay for any supplies needed to get the ramp made.  Instead, Steve built the ramp with wood that he already had on hand.  Then he called the city and they provided a ramp to be used from the street. 

The mission of Hope For The Warriors® to ensure that "no sacrifice forgotten, nor need unmet" cannot be done alone.  It is great having wonderful groups such as the VFW to work alongside us.  Thank you to all the members of the Casey Joyce Post 4380 and to all of our VFW members out there!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Losing and Loving It--Run For The Warriors®

I am an average runner.  I run approximately 25 miles per week and I finish my races at a respectable time.  I never win--and only get an age group award in the smaller races.  However, like most runners, I still don't like being passed during a race.  I know it will happen--it does in every race.  But it doesn't mean that I have to like it.

There is one exception however.  In May 2010, I flew to North Carolina to work and participate in the Run For The Warriors® in Jacksonville.  This nationwide race series began in Jacksonville and the race there has grown each year.  That year, I decided to run the 10K.

I have highlighted this race before in this blog so many of you know something about the event.  It begins with a ceremony, honoring those that have been wounded and fallen.  The ceremony is the perfect start to this important event.  No matter where the race is held, it gives the local community the opportunity to honor those that have sacrificed so much.

And then the race begins.  In Jacksonville, we have a large group of handcyclists that begin the race. They speed through the race course at speeds that no one on foot could keep up with.  Side note--do you know anyone that has ever won the Boston Marathon?  We do!  One of our Team members, a wounded veteran, won in the handcycle division in 2011.  Too cool!

Along with the handcyclists, many wounded service members participate in the race on foot.  And this is when I was glad to be passed.

On that day in May 2010, I was running with my coworker Sarah.  It was hot, humid and I was not having very much fun.  I had run a 10K only two weeks before and had a great race.  The race that day was not going as well.  Less than half way through, we were passed by one of our wounded.  He was running, uneffected by the heat, with a prosthetic in place of his left leg. 

This is why I love the Run For The Warriors®.  Among those participating are families, friends, community members and most importantly, our service members.  I was glad to be passed by this young Marine that day and proud of his achievement.

As I said before, this race is now a nationwide series and we have several races slated in 2012.  To see a complete listing, visit our race page.  We are already accepting early registrations for two of these races, one in Secaucus, New Jersey and in Jacksonville.  Soon our race in Manhattan will be open too. 

If there is no race near you, we still encourage you to participate by donating to someone who is raising funds for their race.  You can find people by going to the registration page for each race.  All funds raised will benefit the military families that we assist.  We hope to see all of you there!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Veterans/No Boundaries Video

Two weeks ago, we posted a story about service members and their families attending a weekend of winter sports.  The families were hosted by Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation and they enjoyed a weekend of skiing, snowshoeing and more.  Hope For The Warriors® appoached the group because we had several service members interested in winter sports as part of their recovery and as an activity they could enjoy with their entire family.

We work with many programs throughout the country that provide our wounded service members and their families with opportunities to enjoy outdoor sports, regardless of their injuries.  Below, the group has put together a great video, explaining the benefits of these sports.

We are proud to work with this amazing group.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Veteran Ronnie Simpson shares his loves of sailing with
listeners from radio station, KVI in Seattle, WA

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Laughter is the Best Medicine

"Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand."
--Mark Twain

Last Saturday, Hope For The Warriors® presented a unique night of entertainment to the people of Jacksonville--The Patriot Tour.  The Patriot Tour is a comedy troupe of first responders--cops, firefighters, military and more.  The comedy show, although it highlights first responders and military, was enjoyed by everyone in the audience.

This event was a fundraiser for Hope For The Warriors®.  However, being true to our mission, we made the night about so much more.  Along with the usual comedians in the tour, Hope For The Warriors® invited two Jacksonville-based, wounded veterans--both who were eager to jump on the stage and join the other comedians.

1st Lt. Edwin Salau, Army National Guard (Ret.)

Ed Salau took to the stage and quipped "I know what you are thinking--nice shorts."  Then he added, "I got a new leg and I wanted to show it off."

The night allowed Ed to check "Stand Up Comedian" off his Bucket List.  It also provided the attendees the gift of hearing a very funny man.

Salau served 11 years in the Marine Corps.  In 2000, he joined the National Guard and was mobilized to Iraq in 2004.  In November 2004, his vehicle was ambushed by insurgents.  Along with a leg amputation, he suffered second-degree burns on the side of his face.

CWO4 Chris Hedgcorth, USMC (Ret.)
Another veteran invited to stand on the stage was CWO4 Chris Hedgcorth.  Chris is always very quick with the jokes and this night showcased his talent.

Hedgcorth highlighted how he was injured--by a 160 mm rocket.  "It wasn't flying through air or bleeding that was so bad, it was the sudden stop."

Hedgcorth retired during the summer of 2010 after almost 27 years in the Marine Corps.

One more special person of interest who attended was Joe Pistone.  Pistone volunteered for a special mission with the FBI in 1976.  He took on the new persona of "Donnie Brasco" and infiltrated a notorious Mafia family.  His story was made famous in a movie starring Johnny Depp.

Joe Pistone, aka "Donnie Brasco"
To read more about this great evening, read the complete article posted by The Globe.  All photos were provided by the paper.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winter Wonderland Adventure - Outdoor Adventures

While many were watching the Super Bowl this past weekend, several of our families were involved in their own sports.  The organization, Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation, hosts a four-day winter sports retreat at Sunday River Ski Resort each winter during Super Bowl weekend. Wounded veterans and active duty service members are invited to attend with their families at no cost.

The group's Veterans/No Boundaries Program provides instruction in both winter and summer sports to any veteran with a physical disability. 

The program provides the veterans with an amazing opportunity to build both confidence and physical strength.  The weekend also gives families a place to bond together--and with other military families.

The winter weekend included skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and more.  And the results were quickly apparent.  One surprised veteran shared:

“...this skiing is incredibly therapeutic.  You really need to tell people how much it helps.  I should be wiped out right now, but I’m buzzing like I downed a whole pot of coffee.”
Another shared:

"What a wonderful place! I was able to go downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing and even went on an amazing snow mobile ride.  I am still amazed at how nice everyone was.  I met a lot of really cool vets and I can't wait to go back.  They invited me back for their summer program and for skiing next year.  I got a lot of vestibular therapy out of the skiing and hadn't expected to do as well as I did.  Very worthwhile!  I can't thank you enough for sending me!"

Hope For The Warriors®, through our Outdoor Adventures Program,approached the group.  We had several service members interested in pursuing the sport in a safe and therapeutic environment.    The group happily invited these families and have since asked each to return.  Hope For The Warriors® covered the cost of transportation; everything else was provided by Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation.

It should also be shared that Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation depends on the dedication of many volunteers.  These dedicated individuals give hours of their time to make a difference in the lives of our military families.  We look forward to working with this great group in the future!

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Kyle and Alex meet Victor Cruz.

Read yesterday's blog posting for the rest of the story.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Super Bowl - Facing The Giants

I am always amazed by the generosity of our supporters.  So many people have stepped forward to make a difference to Hope For The Warriors® and to the service members we assist.  The rest of my Super Bowl story surrounds someone who has been a longtime supporter.

As I stated in the last blog, Jim McMahon invited Kyle Moser and his family to join him in Indianapolis.  But really, a trip to this city would not be complete without going to the Big Game!  So, Hope For The Warriors® set out to make that possible.

Fortunately, two separate people stepped forward and donated two tickets each.  Two tickets in ADA seating for Kyle and his wife Alex and two separate tickets for Kyle's supportive father and stepfather.

And then there was Jim!

Jim Buckley was in the city, working with the Giants in the area of security.  I had met him earlier in the day and he hoped to meet Kyle.  Later, we were near his hotel so I sent him a quick text.  His response was to come by, he wanted to introduce Kyle to someone and give him a New York Giants cap.  Seemed like a short but fun stop to make.

Jim greets the Mosers.
We arrived at the hotel and things were crazy.  I should have realized that the Giants were all staying at this hotel and the lobby was filled with fans.  Soon after Jim found us, he and several security guards focused on introducing football players to Kyle.

Kyle and Alex meets many players.
One by one, coaches, managers, players and the owner himself came to Kyle, shook his hand and thanked him for his service.  Kyle was grinning ear to ear, and asking each player to sign his new ball cap.  In truth, many of the players seemed equally in awe of someone who gave so much for his country. 

With owner Mara and general manager Reese.

At some point, one of the players invited us to the private party.  And so that is how it came to be that Kyle, his beautiful wife, his father, stepfather and an overwhelmed PR Director from Hope For The Warriors® ended up surrounded by a group of very large football players.  WOW!

Kenny Phillips invites us to a private party.
Kyle also met Col. Gadson, USA (Ret.), double amputee and the Giants' honorary captain for the Super Bowl.  A great man and a true leader, Gadson and Kyle's conversation immediately dove into subjects that only they could completely understand.  It was my favorite moment of the evening. 

Our combat veterans meet.
Not to down play the Super Bowl itself but let's face it, most of you saw that amazing game.  Kyle and his family had a great Super Bowl experience. 

Each person holds their "Golden Ticket."
Alex and Kyle wait for the game to begin.

The Great Search is complete.
Kyle finds the jersey.

Maybe I should have just posted photos and titled this blog "Kyle's Smile Says it All."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Super Bowl--Jim McMahon and Friends

Lance Cpl. Kyle Moser, USMC spent his 20th Birthday in a place that most 20 year olds do not want to be--at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  The Marine lost both legs and part of his right hand two days before Thanksgiving in Afghanistan.  But Kyle's 20th Birthday proved to be exciting and motivating.


Hope For The Warriors ® threw the young Marine a birthday party in his hospital room.  This is part of our bedside care for wounded service members.  Robin Kelleher, our President, was in the room and knew what excitement awaited.


The week before, Robin had received a phone call from Jim McMahon--former Chicago Bears quarterback and longtime supporter of our military.  He was looking for a wounded service member to invite to his Swang N' Super Bowl Bash and other parties leading up to the Super Bowl.  Hope For The Warriors® had met Kyle and his family and knew that he was a huge fan of the Chicago Bears.  She also knew that the early February trip would be the perfect motivation for this young Marine who had been through so much.  The trip was not just a reward for his service and sacrifice, it would become a key component in his rehabilitation.

The invitation came through a Skype video session and Kyle was surprised and thrilled!  Jim's invitation came with the added instructions to "get better so you can come to Indianapolis."

This is exactly why Hope For The Warriors® created our Hope & Morale program.  The Hope & Morale program provides respite and recreational opportunities for wounded service members engaged in the long process of recovery. Such events raise spirits, restore hope and inspire a commitment to recovery—all-important factors in long-term rehabilitation success.

Swang N' Super Bowl Bash
Alex and Kyle flew to Indianapolis the Wednesday before the Super Bowl.  That evening, McMahon hosted a Celebrity Mixer with many of his personal friends and guests and the Mosers.  It was the perfect low-key evening for this couple to begin their week.

The main event was held on Thursday and Kyle and his wife Alex and father Bob had a great time.  They were once again the personal guests of Jim McMahon and his girlfriend Laurie.  The room was filled with sports and music stars--all who took the time to talk to Kyle and thank him for his service to our country.  For his first outing, Kyle could not have been in a more supportive atmosphere. 

Alex and Kyle Moser sit with McMahon for a news interview.
During the evening, the party was also joined by some other service members.  A direct feed connected party goers to soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.  The wife of one of those soldiers spoke to her husband in a not-so-private but still emotional conversation.

Soldiers in Afghanistan joined the party.

On Saturday, the Moser family had the opportunity to once again sit with McMahon before he had to leave town.  They were all thankful for the time they had with their Chicago Bears hero.
A photo moment between two new friends.

Later that evening, we were the guest of one of McMahon's friends--Kyle Turley.  Turley is a former player for the Saints and now a musician.  His band was performing at a Country Western Bar and as you can see in the photo below, Kyle and Alex were ready to dress the part! 
The Mosers with Kyle Turley.

One final friend of McMahon's that I must highlight is Dick Lynch, president and founder of the organization, Impact a Hero.  Through this organization, Kyle and Alex flew home on Monday in a private plane, operated by Universal Weather & Aviation.  

Hope For The Warriors® thanks Jim McMahon and his staff, all of his friends, and all of the people at Impact a Hero and Universal Weather & Aviation.  His invitation and the trip was a huge morale booster for Kyle and his family.  He will not soon forget any of this!

Next blog posting....Kyle meets the Giants and goes to the Super Bowl!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Voltin easily passes his competition in the 9/11 Run For The Warriors® 5K

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Outdoor Adventures--Life Classic Hunt

In mid-January, two service members joined a group of avid hunters for the 19th Annual Buckmasters Life Classic Hunt.   The hunt took place at Sedgefields Plantations and the founder and President of Buckmasters, Jackie Bushman hosted two American heroes for this annual hunting trip.

Buckmasters is a National Deer Hunting Association that encourages hunting ethics, sportsmanship and hunter safety.  Hope For The Warriors® has partnered with the organization to provide hunting opportunities to our wounded service members as part of our Outdoor Adventures Program.  This program provides adaptive opportunities for wounded heroes to participate in sporting activities in the great outdoors. Service members, who previously embraced an outdoorsman lifestyle, as well as those new to wilderness sports, are introduced to recreational opportunities on the road to recovery.
The Life Classic Hunt is for people with many different disabilities and includes avid athletes, children and more.  Here is what one of our heroes shared about his experience:
“I am in the process of being medically retired and was feeling somewhat worthless; the whole process is not fun. This hunt made me realize that I do have worth, that people do care, and there are people who are less fortunate than I am.”

Many of our service members grew up hunting.  For them, this outdoor sport is key to their emotional rehabilitation.  Hope For The Warriors® is proud to be a part of that recovery.
Up next in Outdoor Adventures—a Pheasant Hunting Trip in Texas and two ski trips for wounded service members and their families!  Stay tuned for photos and more!