Last Veteran’s Day, Reach Out & Care (ROC) Warriors, a Veteran’s program I helped co-create and standup over the past two years with Wayne Hanson, held it’s biggest fundraiser to date. The purpose was to kickstart a fundraising campaign that would raise enough money to buy the wheelchairs a cohort of Veterans would be delivering and building for our partner organization, the Center for Disabled Children Assistance (CDCA) in Kathmandu Nepal. We needed to raise a large amount of money in a very short amount of time and truthfully I was worried. Mainly because we were having to create an entirely new donor base, but also because it was the largest amount I have ever attempted to raise on my own. Putting the fear of failure aside, I began reaching out to my network and because of amazing mentors, friends, and our partnership with the Wheelchair Foundation we crushed the $42,000.00 goal; raising it all in just 36 days.
In January, ROC Warriors began working with both our partners, the Wheelchair Foundation and CDCA, to identify each of the 200 children that would be receiving one of these wheelchairs. It was a very time consuming process dealing with different time zones and language barriers, but incredibly important to make sure we ordered the right sizes and types. By the beginning of February we had all the information we needed and officially placed the order with the wheelchair manufacturer. For me, getting that order placed was a sense relief and it was the realization that we needed to get to work on identifying the Veterans who would be in this first Fellowship class and start planning the trip. By March, we had secured a mental health professional, who works with Veterans, to accompany us to Nepal. We had identified several Veteran Physical Therapists who were prepared to come help fit the children into their new wheelchairs. We also started talking with Wounded Warriors who wanted to be apart of this first fellowship. It was very exciting to see all the hard work finally coming together.
Then as April arrived and our world was staring down a global pandemic, I was still trying to be optimistic. I had hoped that Covid-19 would kind of fade away as the previous viruses did, but it became very clear, very fast, that wasn’t going to be the case. We found ourselves scrambling to figure out how we could salvage this year’s program and what it would even look like; truth - I was in denial. Then Nepal announced that it was closing it borders and reality smacked me right across the face; there would be no trip to Nepal this year. While ROC Warriors wasn’t going to be able to take Veterans to Nepal this year, we knew the importance of keeping our word to our partner and most importantly to those children who we told would be getting a new wheelchair, many for the first time in their lives. Fortunately, the government of Nepal was still allowing humanitarian shipments, so we became focused and determined to makes sure this delivery would still happen despite Covid-19. It has been months of emails, waiting through shutdowns, navigating language barriers, differing time zones, and customs paperwork, but it is with great pride that I get to report that all 200 wheelchairs are finished being manufactured, loaded into a shipping container, and will began their month and half long journey to Nepal within the next few days.
This experience has taught me so many lessons about life and work, but the biggest is how resilient the human spirit is and what can be accomplished when working in unison for the betterment of others. It took a tribe to get to this point and I want to thank everyone who trusted and believed in this mission to donate their money and time to make this happen. I especially want to thank Marty Rosenburg, Dan Gabriel, Nick Palmer, Don Klausen, Rachel Lauderbaugh, Klipsch Marketing Advisors, and NuV3 for helping ROC Warriors launch a dynamic program and fundraising campaign. A huge thanks to Wayne Hanson and ROC Wheels for the desire and dedication to building a quality Veteran's program. Most importantly I want to thank our matching donor and partner the Wheelchair Foundation for their support; this delivery would not be happening without their help and expertise!
These past two years of helping write and design the ROC Warriors curriculum has been an exciting, challenging, and rewarding adventure that I will always cherish. However, within the past month, I have received some unexpected news regarding my health and I will be resigning as the Executive Director of ROC Warriors at the end of June to focus on this new challenge. I will continue to act as a program advisor to help shape the direction of the program post covid-19. I am thrilled to announce that my replacement will be John Tromsness. He has a number of great ideas to keep moving ROC Warriors forward and I look forward to seeing where it goes under his leadership!
Thank you everyone for all your support and encouragement over these past two years! It has meant the world and I look forward to watching this community grow!
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