So there’s a thing making its rounds on social media called the 10-year challenge. Have you done it? Shared a photo of yourself from 2009 and one from today. Maybe you’ve improved with age; perhaps there are experiences over the last decade that you would rather forget. Maybe 10-years ago you were an 18-year-old high-school graduate who just enlisted in the military, and now, 10-years later you have multiple deployments under your belt. Maybe 10-years ago you were single and childless, and now you are married with kids. A lot can happen in the span of a decade.
Boot Campaign is celebrating its 10-year-anniversary this year, and we’re looking better than ever. Along the way, we’ve had bad hair, a few questionable outfits and certainly been tongue-tied on camera. We’ve also grown a few more gray hairs. But, above all, what pales in comparison to those blips is our commitment to awakening the inner patriot in every American.
I’ll remember fondly our very first motorcycle ride and rally where cast members of the FX show Sons of Anarchy leveraged their celebrity to draw the crowd together to benefit our cause. The feeling and sound of the motorcycles departing and then returning to the venue was exhilarating. Another vivid memory was with my co-founder Ginger. We shared a laugh together when we went to visit George Jones at his home; he was chomping on this giant wad of gum that his wife made him spit out before he laced up his boots.
We have held strong to that original vision of photographing celebrities in combat boots, but now there is more meaning behind it because of those we aim to serve and those I’ve personally been able to meet. I’ll never forget Marine Corps veteran Marcus Burleson and watching him text on his phone with lightning speed (using his nose!) after he lost both of his hands. And I get teary eyed each time I hear from those who have benefited from our life-improving programs.
Of course we’ve seen some challenges along the way. One was wrangling the five of us founders to come together on the same page. There were disagreements; there might have been some tears (mostly mine), but there was a deep desire to attract attention and cheer our way into the view of other Americans to show gratitude and support for our military. We have had to anticipate the changing needs of our servicemen and women and be nimble enough to address them. We’ve had to expand our networks of people willing to give their time and their dollars to get it done. That means keeping things fresh and coming up with ways to garner attention where we didn’t have it before.
Things have certainly evolved over the past decade and Boot Campaign is no exception. We have a spiffy, undoubtedly patriotic look with our new logo. And Boot Campaign programs have transformed as the needs of the military community have changed. In 2009, we passed funds along to other worthy non-profit organizations. In 2016, we bravely forged ahead into the possibilities that we could help truly change a life from the inside out. Amazing service providers partner with Boot Campaign to offer mind and body restoration to our participants and have made our dream a reality. Individuals can come to us and rest assured that they will get the help they need and deserve, without paying for it themselves. Of course, Santa Boots was born of that same desire to give back. Beginning in 2015, we gathered patriots who were willing to generously donate gifts of all kinds to help spread extra Christmas cheer for many deserving military families. To date, we have delivered gifts to 189 families in 37 states. That’s a positive change.
So what’s next? We’ve cultivated a stellar board of directors — 11 members now — to include more leaders with military experience. We are collaborating with additional non-profits, like Armed Services YMCA, Operation Homefront and Fisher House Foundation, and treatment providers like Marcus Institute for Brain Health, Virginia High Performance and Warriors Heart, to offer top-tier programs to our military community. We are reaching more patriots in a wider range across America through social media and our #LaceUpAmerica challenge. We offer more merchandise, including a variety of combat boots in our online store. 10-years is something to celebrate, but for me, it is just the beginning.
Men and women are still serving and returning home with an even greater need for our support. Applications from our veterans are at a steady pace and awareness of our programs are increasing. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see more veterans thrive because of our life-changing programs?
So join us in celebrating 10-years of gratitude and Lace Up, America!