That seems like a user error to me (sorry, Dad), but after double-digit years of service and laces that were maybe a bit too tight, I could see the connection. If you know anyone in the armed forces, past or present, you know all about combat boots, regardless of how they affect leg hair.
Those boots are synonymous with military life and a symbol of service and sacrifice. They’re also the foundation of all that a nationally recognized organization called Boot Campaign stands for.
Their efforts began in 2009 when average Americans chose to outwardly express their gratitude for active duty service members, Veterans, and their families by lacing up one of the most visible signs of military service: combat boots.
Thanks to patriots from coast to coast who heard the mission, believed in it, and took the next step, Boot Campaign has grown into a national charity that actively supports military families.
Over the last 14 years, Boot Campaign’s efforts to encourage anyone and everyone to lace up a pair of combat boots to stand in support and solidarity for veterans and military families has grown and created a movement known as #LaceUpAmerica.
The #LaceUpAmerica initiative directly supports Boot Campaign’s two primary direct service programs -- Santa Boots and the Health & Wellness Program.
It’s no secret that, historically, access to comprehensive Veteran care has been a huge challenge and limited access to qualified care was magnified and exacerbated by COVID-19.
The lasting challenges and effects of COVID-19 as well as current events have stirred up a whole host of emotions, and many Veterans are struggling to reconcile those emotions and other more silent marks of service that are not seen by the naked eye.
Studies indicate these same challenges to be highly correlated with Veteran suicide.
A June 2021 report from Brown University’s Cost of War project shows that more than four times the number of those who served have died on home soil by their own hand than those who were killed in action since 9/11. That is a sobering statistic. And here’s another:
Since March 2020, Boot Campaign has received a 300% increase in requests for care.
We’ve seen the same at Chive Charities, and that’s a big driver to our need to find and support as many Veterans and active-duty military families as we can. The need is greater than ever for this deserving community.
With those stats in mind, It’s easy to understand the impact a comprehensive health and wellness program could have on their lives, and that’s something that the Boot Campaign is really proud to offer. But sometimes, it’s support that might seem less obvious that carries big impact, too. That’s where the Santa Boots Program comes into play.
Through it, the Boot Campaign provides Veteran and active-duty military families facing financial hardship or catastrophic injury with specially curated gift boxes during the holidays. It began with 50 families and a small storage unit filled with goods, and it’s grown into an amazing initiative that supports 150 families each year.
The holidays are often difficult for many military families who have recently had a permanent change of duty station, are separated because of deployment, or are caring for the health of a wounded, injured or ill service member.
What Boot Campaign saw was that about ⅓ of military and Veteran families were not covering basic bills or essentials. To help combat that, they began connecting with individuals in need through other organizations who were working with military members, creating a nomination process to identify selected participants.
Then, they would engage with the community in helping meet service members’ needs, striving to make the holiday season brighter (and beyond) by delivering individualized and personalized gift boxes to their families. They’ll provide everything from base exchange gift cards to clothes, games, craft sets, and basic essentials.
“That individualization and care is what makes the program so special,” said Meg Jones, Boot Campaign’s Program and Grant Manager. “It’s truly what they want and what they need, and it’s all about making them feel special and seen.”
If anyone can understand why that matters so much, it would be Meg. After her husband, a Retired Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, was severely wounded in Afghanistan, they were on the receiving end of several gift bags and items. She remembers how much the personalized items resonated with them and wanted others to feel that same sense of gratitude and appreciation.
“With the Santa Boots program, it’s always about the service member and their family,” she said. “That’s what keeps me going.”
On average, every family receives about $1,000 in items, and they also try to grant one wish for the families, too.
“Typically, we’ll find out if they have a higher need like a computer or something similar and do everything we can to get that for them,” explained Lindsey Lott, Vice President of Partnerships and Communications at Boot Campaign.
“Even with helping about 150 families each holiday season, we’ve only had two instances where we’ve provided repeat support,” she told us. “We really want to reach as many unique people as possible.”
Sounds a lot like our mission at Chive Charities, too.
As a Veteran-focused non-profit organization, we knew of Boot Campaign and its incredible efforts to support more of our service members and their families. We also recently shared a recipient who received assistance from Boot Campaign and Chive Charities, a Veteran and 9/11 first responder named Ron Pastino.
When we meet Veterans who’ve sought help from other organizations, we usually hear a lot of mixed reviews. It seems like it’s either one of the worst experiences of their life…or one of the best. When Ron told us about Boot Campaign, it was the latter, and we were immediate fans.
Cory Hall-Martin, our Senior Program Manager, reached out to them to see if we might be able to help support their efforts, and they responded with a resounding yes. Thanks to the selfless donations of our community – a group of people who have always stood behind military families since first supporting Taylor Morris in 2012 – we were able to dedicate $10,000 to Boot Campaign and the Santa Boots program.
That means this holiday season, 10 additional military families will be able to feel seen and supported at a time when they need it most. And they’ll get that support in the form of personally curated and hand-picked items that reiterate that they’re not alone, that they matter. (In fact, You Matter is a major message the Boot Campaign works to communicate in an effort to prevent Veteran suicide.)
Looking at their origin story, it can seem so simple. What could a pair of combat boots possibly do? How could a box of gifts mean so much to a military family? But they’ve taken these ideas and turned them into impactful campaigns that change lives.
It’s not all that different from Chive Charities and how your $10 donations can turn into life-changing impact – how sharing a story or encouraging someone to apply can create ripples that make waves. It could have started with Taylor Morris and ended with Taylor Morris, but it didn’t.
That’s all because of you. And today, we can stand with organizations like the Boot Campaign and support recipients like Ron Pastino and remind them, over and over and over again, that they matter. You matter.
It’s not just about combat boots and holiday gifts. It’s not just about wheelchairs, service dogs, or therapy equipment. It’s about serving those who need it most when they need it most. If one more life can be changed – if one more life can be saved – count us in and lace ‘em up. DONATE HERE.
P.S. If you’d like to further support the Santa Boots program, you can purchase individual items through the shopping page RIGHT HERE. And if you know of a Veteran or military family in need of support, please check out BootCampaign.org or apply for a grant at ChiveCharities.org.