This time last year, and just as I am again this week, I was considering what the next 10 years should look like for Boot Campaign. The one word that kept resurfacing over and over and over again was FIERCE.
The word has two polar opposite definitions. One definition of fierce is “showing a heartfelt and passionate intensity.” Last year, I latched on to that particular meaning of the word. Fierce became our word of the year in 2020 for Boot Campaign staff.
But, the definition I intended and the expectations I believed critical for 2020 and Boot Campaign’s next decade of serving veterans, took on a different interpretation by March. The same word filled with such promise on January 1 instead transformed into another definition of fierce, filled with negative connotations, as our nation and the world grappled with ever-changing COVID-19 circumstances. Dictionary.com also defines fierce as “extremely bad or severe.”
Sure, there were aspects of 2020 that were relentless; it was a year like no other for all Americans. But, despite the unforeseen and unpredictable ride we all experienced and endured this year, there were a number of bright spots for Boot Campaign that turned out to be brilliant. While 2020 was fiercely hard, it was also fiercely worthwhile and rewarding.
2020 was a year of innovation.
In January of 2020, Boot Campaign launched a virtual effort for easier access to holistic wellness that incorporates mental, physical and familial well being. Nobody could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic, but this pre-pandemic shift in our program became invaluable in 2020 when non-traditional and accessible services became more important than ever.
After just twelve months our initial results show:
- Decreased stress related to work, relationships, and finances
- Reduced physical stress symptoms
- Increases in adaptability, resilience, and vitality
- Lower emotional distress overall
Feedback from participants who completed the virtual program indicated they “extremely agreed” that their quality of life improved, as well as reporting they “extremely agreed” that the program is efficacious and of top quality.
This element of our individualized health and wellness pipeline will continue to be a valuable service even when brick-and-mortar offerings are once again widely available as it reduces the stress of travel for those unable to leave their jobs or families for extended periods of time. This virtual program will continue as we serve veteran and military families in need for the foreseeable future.
2020 reinforced our commitment to individualized care.
When veterans and their families enter the Boot Campaign Health and Wellness program, they receive personalized treatment plans considering physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental factors. In the middle of this pandemic, and because of the tremendous increase in demand for our program, we grew our team and hired Sarah Lucas, a U.S. Army veteran, as a case manager to continue to provide time intensive and highly personalized care for each qualified candidate seeking treatment for hidden wounds of war through our Health and Wellness Program.
Ongoing case management and helping families plan for the future, sustains the health gains made during Boot Campaign’s Health and Wellness program long term. Getting veterans the care they need and deserve in a timely, compassionate, and individualized manner saves lives so that suicide doesn’t seem like the only option.
Additionally, through our holiday program Santa Boots, each family’s individual needs were addressed; the boxes of Christmas gifts provided were individually shopped for, personally wrapped and specially delivered. We made Christmas possible for a young Army family in North Carolina whose toddler son was recently diagnosed with leukemia. We took the stress of shopping away from a recently widowed spouse and made Christmas magical for a Marine veteran’s family whose daughter spent the holiday in the hospital after emergency surgery.
Coming alongside veteran and military families by stepping up and stepping in to meet their unique needs through our Health and Wellness program and Santa Boots Program is exactly what we do at Boot Campaign.
2020 was a year of adapting, adjusting and anticipating what’s to come.
For us, what’s to come isn’t too far off from the foundation on which Boot Campaign was built over a decade ago.
In 2021, we are committed to remaining agile, adapting to the most pressing needs of the military community.
In 2021, we will remain financially transparent and independently audited.
In 2021, we will keep lacing up to unite Americans to honor and restore the lives of veterans and military families. They need us now more than ever.
While many are choosing new words as we start 2021, I’m choosing to stay with fierce because fierce also has a third meaning — bold and striking.
As we enter this new year, our board of directors, staff, veteran ambassadors and volunteers hold these three promises for the future. A future that we will face together…fiercely…in multiple meanings of the word.