Traveling Volunteers Share What Giving Back to Boot Campaign Means to Them
Have you ever heard the saying, “The joy is in the journey?” Well we know one group who has taken that to heart as they each hit the road in retirement to journey across the U.S. full-time in their RVs to serve a bigger purpose.
All having sold their homes to travel on wheels (from motorhomes, 5th wheels or travel trailers), the McIlraiths, Coopers, Rossis and McWilliams each have their own unique “why” for taking their lives on the road in retirement. However, it is their collective passion for volunteerism that brought them together, and has since fueled their engines for giving back wherever they go – including our own holiday Program efforts in Grapevine, Texas!
After spending their entire week volunteering to wrap gifts with us in December of 2023, we just had to share more of their inspiring story, their passion for service and what our mission means to them.
Tell us about your group and how you got started volunteering across the country – and with Boot Campaign!
“All of us connected during several volunteer projects in 2021 with a groundbreaking RV-centered group called A Year To Volunteer (Y2V). Y2V’s founders had a goal to volunteer in all 50 states when they started on their full-time RV travel life in 2020. What they didn’t anticipate was that there would be many (100s!) other full-time RV travelers who would want to join them on their mission!
While we all still volunteer with Y2V, our travels don’t always align with their projects so many of us return to our favorite volunteer locations (state parks, museums, animal sanctuaries) and continue to look for new volunteer opportunities, such as the holiday Program with Boot Campaign.
None of us expected this community to form because of volunteering and none of us expected to be using our skills and learning new ones after retirement.” – Mike & Terri McIlraith
What initially drew your team into Boot Campaign and, more specifically, our holiday Program efforts?
“We saw an interview on TV where Boot Campaign was highlighted and immediately went online and got on the mailing list. Being from Texas, I hoped that one of the events would line up with our travels and we could support by attending or even volunteering if needed.
In December of 2022, we were visiting Fort Worth and I checked the Boot Campaign website and read about the Santa Boots Volunteer Week. We immediately signed up for a shift! Mike and I enjoyed it so much and felt we were making a difference for a deserving family. We changed up our travel plans so we could volunteer for another shift. That shift was just as magical…..we were hooked!
We posted our experience to our RV friends group and several said that they were adding Boot Campaign’s Santa Boots efforts in Grapevine to their 2023 schedule!” – Mike & Terri McIlraith
What is your favorite part about volunteering to wrap presents for Veterans and military families?
“Knowing that families are getting meaningful gifts that will really make a difference to their Christmas and long-term.” – Don and Maria Rossi
“We love reading the stories of each family and realizing the impact this must have on them. Also re-connecting with friends we haven’t seen for a few months and meeting the volunteer staff and other groups there to wrap presents.” – Mark and Chris McWilliams
“We value being a part of and involved with an organization that serves our Military. Our favorite parts were reading their stories, praying for their families (and Boot Campaign) and just having a fun time with like-minded people. Filling the parts of OUR souls that remind us how blessed we are in the USA.” – U.S. Army Veteran Tom and Teresa Cooper
“After we volunteered in 2022, I remember reading the thank you notes that were sent to Boot Campaign. We could only imagine what stress these families were feeling. We also didn’t realize until this year that most families don’t know that they’ve been nominated to receive gifts. The relief and joy must be palpable when these boxes arrive. I’m sure that the adults are as excited as the kids. To be able to help give these children a joyful Christmas reminiscent of the ones we had growing up is a motivator for us.” – Mike and Terri McIlraith
How does the message of YOU MATTER resonate with you or your group?
“Everyone matters, especially those who serve. We owe them what we enjoy now.” – Don and Maria Rossi
“Our group wants to give back and help in any way we can. We have seen first hand the need for volunteers and the impact they can have and have been blessed to see that our efforts as volunteers do matter and make a difference. What may seem like a small thing, like wrapping Christmas gifts, repainting a sign, or repairing a picnic table, can be huge to a military family, non-profit organization, or Park Ranger. In addition, we suspect that many in the military community don’t feel appreciated for the sacrifices they are making or have made. We love that Boot Campaign is spreading the message YOU MATTER through your wonderful programs.” – Mark and Chris McWilliams
“We believe they matter and Boot Campaign is treating the hidden wounds that show our service members and their families matter. We believe everyone matters to someone.” – U.S. Army Veteran Tom and Teresa Cooper
“This year we were fortunate to meet several Veterans and fellow volunteers who were recipients of at least one of Boot Campaign’s Programs. I’ll admit that I just thought active military and Veterans received all sorts of help from the military when they ‘came home’ or while stationed here. I’m shocked and saddened to learn how often these individuals and families are NOT supported. It seems they become invisible. The YOU MATTER initiative not just tells them they matter, but puts it into actions….and shows it in so many ways. I’m so glad that we’re able to support the Santa Boots Program and to show our active military, Veterans AND their families that they are not forgotten and that they do matter.” – Mike and Terri McIlraith