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There are approximately 18 million veterans in the United States and their war experiences have left an unforgettable impression on them. They have completed their mission and it is time for us to start ours! The Gary Sinise Foundation is the perfect way for us to do that. By honoring our veterans, defenders, first responders, and their families we can serve our nation. Donating time and money to the Gary Sinise Foundation are only just a few things you could do to donate. They have served us by protecting our security and freedom, it is now time to serve them.
Gary Sinise, actor and humanitarian, began as an advocate for American service members in the early 1980s. He started by supporting various Vietnam Veterans groups and the creation of a program called “Vets Night” at the Steppenwolf Theater located in Chicago, Illinois. The program offered free performances and dinners to veterans. In the 1990s, he expanded his commitment to veterans by working in conjunction with the Disabled American Veterans Organization, which he still continues to support to this day. The September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, Gary Sinise’s perseverance to our country’s veterans, defenders and first responders has developed into a determined campaign of support, service, and appreciativeness to all those who safeguard our liberty and serve our nation. The movie “Forest Gump” instilled a lasting relationship with the military community and Gary Sinise with his portrayal of Lieutenant Dan Taylor. In the early 2000s, Gary traveled with the United Service Organizations conducting several handshake tours. In 2004, he created the “Lieutenant Dan Band” and started traveling across the United Stade and overseas entertaining servicemembers. The band continues to accomplish almost 30 performances each year for fundraisers, charities, and military veterans. In 2011, The Gary Sinise Foundation was established to magnify his individual determinations. There are any efforts of the foundation, such as, serving robust meals to troops prior to their deployments, building customized smart homes for severely injured veterans, and hosting spirit-bolstering events for families, patients and medical personnel at military hospitals. “Freedom and security are precious gifts that we, as Americans, should never take for granted,” says Sinise. “We must do all we can to extend our hand in times of need to those who willingly sacrifice each day to provide that freedom and security. While we can never do enough to show our gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.” We tend to drum on in our daily lives enjoying the freedoms and liberties that others are dying to protect. We must do our part to help them in their need once their mission is over.
The Gary Sinise Foundation has four main programs Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment, Relief and Resiliency, Community and Education, and First Responders Outreach. The Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment Program uses donation from numerous corporations and individuals to build smart house for severely disabled veterans and first responders. The houses are customized for each individual and their disabilities. Wheelchair ramps, low countertops, and roll-in showers are just a few of the possible customizations. Each house is controlled by a single iPad that is used to monitor security cameras, open doors, and turn on and off the lights. So far there have been approximately 60 houses built. They are 100 percent mortgage free and designed to ease the challenges faced by these heroes on a daily basis while conducting normal day-to-day tasks. The program also retrofits existing home to fit the individual needs, such as expanding bathrooms to be wheelchair accessible and adding wheelchair ramps, to name a few.
The program provides mobility devices like wheelchairs and hand cycles and will modify vans and trucks to lessen the dependence on their caregivers and help the individual become more autonomous. The Relief and Resiliency program consists of five sub-programs, which are the Snowball Express, Mental Health, Invincible Spirits Festivals, Gary Sinise and the Lieutenant Dan Band, and the Heal, Overcome, Persevere, and Excel Program. The Snowball Express honors the children of fallen warriors with an annual five-day retreat in December located at Walt Disney World Resort. It is designed to bring families together to create a community of support that will last the year and, hopefully, a lifetime. There are also community driven events that are hosted throughout the year, from baseball games to camping trips, to strengthen the bond within the families. The Mental Health Program provide access to the Marcus Institute for Brain Health for individuals that suffer from traumatic brain injury to help them deal with the changes that accompany head traumas. There are also resiliency workshops to help cope with post-traumatic stress and to reintegrate them with family and friends. Texas A&M veterinarians provide free health care to service dogs and police canines for free. Invincible Spirit Festivals are day-long celebrations of the courage of the heroes, their families, and the caregivers. It is a reprieve from the rigidities of medical treatments and procedures in a fair-like atmosphere with the Lieutenant Dan Band playing and a barbeque. The Gary Sinise and the Lieutenant Dan Band travel the world boosting morale in the communities and at military bases. Their motto is “Honor, Gratitude, and Rock & Roll.”
The Heal, Overcome, Persevere, and Excel enterprise affords complete care to individuals and families who experienced trauma, injury, or loss during periods of great need, going so far as to pay bills or buy groceries for them. The Community and Education Program also contains five sup-initiatives, which are Soaring Valor, Serving Heroes, Arts and Entertainment Outreach, Ambassadors Council, and the Education and Outreach Center. Soaring Valor initiative flies World War II vets to the National Would War II Museum in New Orleans. There they are able to record their stories to be shared with the world. The Serving Heroes initiative provides a classic American meal across the nation and bases in Germany and Korea. It is a chance for the Foundation to say “Thank you” face-to-face. The Arts and Entertainment Outreach initiative, otherwise known as “Vets Night,” is a free dinner and dress rehearsal performance at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, The Geffen Theater in Los Angeles, the Catholic University in D.C., and many more. The Ambassadors Council initiative represent the Foundation through public appearances, leadership opportunities, and speaking engagements. The speakers share their experiences and accomplishments and remind us of the sacrifices made by our veterans. The Education and Outreach Center brings the military and civilian communities together to bridge the gap to engage in constructive dialogue and inspiring events. The First Responders Outreach Program is assists emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and police with critical funding relief for training and crucial equipment to enable them to perform to the best of their abilities. They are also able to participate in Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment Program if they are injured during training or in the line of duty.
The biggest question for anyone who donates money to charities is “where does my hard-earned money go?” Charities, just like any other company, have day-to-day expenses. The individual who run the foundation must get paid, fundraising costs money, among other things. Every time you make a donation to a charity, o portion of your donation goes to the overhead expenses and the rest should go to the cause. The Gary Sinise Foundation has enormous support from over 50 thousand donors from the government, corporate and private communities. The Foundation’s website contains the independent audits of the past six years, awards from the top six charity watchdog site including the links to the sites, and all of their required forms for their nonprofit status. The Foundation’s website shows that for 2017, 4.97 percent of donations went towards administrative expenses, 3.91 percent for fundraising costs, and the remaining 91.12 percent was applied directly to the support of our defenders and their families. The charity watchdog site Charity Navigator gave the Gary Sinise Foundation an overall score of 100 out of 100 and four out of four stars for the foundation’s financials, accountability, and transparency. This foundation is the highest rated of the top five veteran’s charities which include Hire Heroes, Lone Survivor Foundation, Liberty USO, and The Wounded Warrior Project which is one of the most highly recognizable veteran’s foundations. The site CharityWatch gave them a grade of A on a scale of A+ to F for 89 percent of their funds going to the programs and spending only four dollars for every 100 dollars they raise. The Better Business Bureau’s charity evaluation site, Give.org, gave the foundation their highest rating of “Meets Standards”. The Gary Sinise Foundation displays commitment to fiscal responsibility to their donors by keeping their overhead low and spending their funding resourcefully. The Foundation is extremely transparent on their web site and to the charity watchdog sites who monitor charities for fraudulent practices.
We must honor our veterans, defenders, and first responders. Donating your time or money to the Gary Sinise Foundation is a great way for us to give back. With the great many programs that the Gary Sinise Foundation has instituted to take care of our warriors and their families, the amount of your monetary donation that goes directly into the programs themselves, and the longstanding history of the foundation, this decision should be an easy one. The military and first responders are an all-volunteer force. They have written you a blank check for the protection of your freedom and safety that could cost them, up to and including, their lives. Now that their mission is over, let us tear up that check and write them one of our own.