WHAT WE DO

The military provides world-class care while injured service members are in the hospital. But sometimes gaps open up between the support the military can provide, and the support the injured and their families need.

The Yellow Ribbon Fund helps bridge the gaps while they’re recovering in the Washington, DC, area at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

Even after they return to their hometowns, YRF continues to help.


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HOUSING & TRANSPORTATION

SUPPORT
PROGRAMS

ACTIVITIES
& EVENTS

The Yellow Ribbon Fund provides free
HOTEL ROOMS for visiting relatives desperate to be at the side of their injured loved ones.

We provide free
RENTAL CARS and
TAXI RIDES to give them some freedom and control at a time when they control very little.

As injured service members recover and become outpatients, we provide free, furnished APARTMENTS for families who otherwise would have to endure the added stress of separation or crowding into a hotel room.

When a service member is injured, a family member or close friend leaves home to come help with the recovery, often for a year or longer. YRF’s FAMILY CAREGIVER PROGRAM has pioneered support for caregivers. We’re still one of the only service organizations to offer childcare and family-oriented activities, plus stress-relieving massages and spa visits, mutually supportive dinners out, empowering horseback rides, and more — all at no charge.

Meanwhile, after a life-changing injury, our innovative MENTORING PROGRAM helps injured service members build new lives through education and career guidance, networking, and job shadowing that opens doors.

After injured veterans return home, our AMBASSADOR PROGRAM connects them with volunteers all over the country. These “ambassadors” provide one-on-one support to ensure no one falls through gaps in community safety nets. (Read the program brochure.)

And when injured service members need an advocate to stand up for them, VOLUNTEER LAWYERS FOR VETERANS provide pro bono legal services.

Yellow Ribbon Fund volunteers and donors make it possible for injured service members and their families to enjoy sporting and cultural events, tours, outings, and get-togethers — MORE THAN 100 ACTIVITIES every year.

These events are more than just fun — they’re an important PART OF THE HEALING PROCESS. YRF activities offer stress-reducing breaks from the grueling rigors of recovery, while reducing isolation, nurturing family relationships, and building confidence.

Latest News on
Housing & Transportation:

“YRF bus fills gap for sled hockey team”

Latest News on
Support Programs:

“TUF enough!”

Latest News on
Activities & Events:

“Bridging the gap between military and civilian”

The wives of two USA Warriors players hold the YRF banner at a championship in Connecticut.

The USA Warriors sled hockey team needed to get to an ice rink in Newington, Conn., so they could participate in a championship. The team members were outpatients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. But since Walter Reed no longer provided bus service for trips like that, they had no way to get there.

So they turned to the Yellow Ribbon Fund for help. YRF’s housing and transportation director, Diane Shoemaker, chartered a wheelchair accessible bus with a friendly driver for the overnight trip.

Each year, YRF charters buses in a variety of sizes for 50+ outings, enabling injured troops and families to get away from the hospital.

Afterward, the trip organizer sent Diane a picture of the team, telling her the guys had a great time.

Diane responded, “The smiles on their faces make our jobs worthwhile! These amputees have gone through a lot of pain and effort to get back to where they are today. I am so glad that YRF was there to help out by filling the gap in bus service. We’re focused on making it work.”

Veteran Athlete Ambassador Team member, retired Army SSGT Brendan Ferreira, works out using a homemade prosthetic.

Visit the YRF TUF website!

“Taking Up Fitness” (TUF) is a partnership between YRF and Blue Titan Fitness. The goal of this new initiative: Inspire veterans of all ages and backgrounds to take up fitness and combat depression, anxiety, weight disorders, addictions, and the after-effects of serious injury.

Team leader Jason Sturm, injured in an artillery accident, has been featured in a CrossFit magazine.

The TUF campaign’s Veteran Athlete Ambassador Team of injured veterans will attend 9 events around the country. Come out and meet the athletes, recruit other injured veterans to join them, or sponsor the campaign!

At a recent Zombie Race, supporters raised funds for the TUF team’s travel and lodging by pouring beer and accepting donations for YRF Survival Straps.

KICK-OFF EVENT:
August 9, Rockaway, NJ
Operation Menage-a-WOD
All funds raised will go to support the Veteran Athlete Ambassador Team’s travel and lodging.

EVENT CALENDAR:
• AUG 9 – Operation Menage-A-WOD, Rockaway, NJ
• SEPT 3 – Ruck March, Central Park, New York, NY
• SEPT 13 – Civilian Military Combine, Newtown Square, Pa.
• SEPT 27 – Civilian Military Combine, Brooklyn, NY
• OCT 18 – Civilian Military Combine, Bryce Resort, Va.
• NOV 1- SEALFIT 20X Challenge, Rockaway, NJ
• NOV 9- Across the Bay 10k, Chesapeake, Md.
• NOV 22- Mayhem Games, Tampa Bay, Fla.**

**Details coming soon – check out a recent Mayhem event in New Jersey

For more information, or to sponsor or support the YRF TUF campaign, contact YRF Ambassador Program director Amanda Basek by email or at 973-810-2595.

Read the press release.

But first, read the
Q&A with ERIC BASEK
president of Blue Titan Fitness & Self-Defense
in Rockaway, NJ:

Q: What is the TUF campaign?
A: TUF stands for “Taking up Fitness”. Utilizing our Veteran Athlete Ambassador Team, we are partnering with YRF to start a campaign to inspire veterans of all ages and backgrounds to take up fitness as a way to combat depression, anxiety, weight disorders, unhealthy addictions, serious injury and just about any other medical and psychological problem you can think of.

Q: What motivated you to come up with this way of helping veterans?
A: Everyday I witness firsthand the powerful effects of exercise at my CrossFit and Krav Maga school. Kids struggling with bullies, women wishing they had their pre-pregnancy bodies back, middle-aged men struggling with their age or retirement. No matter what the background and what the struggle, those who take the all-important “first step” have transformed their lives for the better.

Q: Is exercise the primary benefit?
A: As important as the exercise was, it seemed apparent that the friendships forged with sweat were just as important as the exercise itself. As obvious as it is that exercise can change your life, not everyone can take that first step on their own.

Q: So what stops people from getting started?
A: I probably receive a dozen phone calls or emails per month from potential members afraid they aren’t fit enough to join us! This year, instead of just raising money for YRF, I wanted to provide a more tangible gift to the veterans themselves and help inspire veterans who need the help to take that all-important first step. To do this, I needed to partner with veterans who’ve struggled with that first step themselves. I needed veterans who had experienced the life changing effects of fitness, who had emerged from their recovery stronger than before, and who were motivated to use this experience to guide others to take that seemingly impossible first step. This was the birth of the Veteran Athlete Ambassador Team who will inspire other veterans through YRF’s TUF campaign.

Q: Why do you think these activities are appealing to injured service members?
A: Whether they are injured or not, I think the idea of participating in community-based fitness (like CrossFit) is especially appealing to police officers, firefighters, and military personnel. These first responders put their lives on the line as a career. But they don’t do it alone. They become part of a community. When our military service members retire or are discharged, with the exception of those who enter the enforcement or firefighting careers, there are few places they can feel this brotherhood of community struggle and sacrifice.

Q: You have personal experience with this, right?
A: Speaking as a police officer who left to own a business, this brotherhood is the one thing I miss the most… and running an obstacle course race with 10 other team members at my side or participating in a grueling 20 minute WOD (Work Out of the Day) with 10 other CrossFitters sweating around me are two of the only places I am able to feel the effects of a tightknit community in my life now.

Q: So what are your future plans for the TUF campaign?
A: I have aspirations of teaming up with veteran amputees, patent lawyers, and engineers to create adjustable and interchangeable attachments for an amputee’s prosthetic, that will allow them to accomplish a variety of exercises or movement patterns in spite of their injury.

YRF charters wheelchair-accessible buses to take injured service members on outings from the hospital.

The bus, loaded with injured service members and their families from Walter Reed, crept toward the Virginia coast, escorted by more than 100 bikers and two counties-worth of sheriff’s deputies.

The roadside was lined with flag-waving civilians. Ripley, the local DJ, announced their progress on the air, because down the road…

…an entire community was waiting to thank them for their sacrifice. But then, two miles short of town, the bus broke down.

A broken-down bus is just one of many things that can come between the military and the civilians they protect. In a democracy, it’s important to maintain a connection between the people and their protectors, but fewer than 1% of Americans currently serve in the Armed Forces. As a result, there’s a big gap between the military and civilian communities – they don’t know or understand each other.

But the Yellow Ribbon Fund, a civilian non-profit, has been successfully bridging that gap since 2005. When civilians in Colonial Beach, Va., wanted to show how much they appreciated the sacrifices of injured troops and their families, they turned to YRF to help them reach out.

It all started when an injured veteran named Caleb contacted Ripley, who deejays at The Rocket radio station. Caleb needed help moving, so Ripley got on the air and recruited listeners to help.

Afterward, Caleb wanted to throw a barbecue to say thank you. Ripley had a better idea: “We should give YOU a dinner.”

That idea grew into the entire town hosting a Welcome Home Dinner, sponsored by The Rocket and the local Harley dealer, All-American Harley Davidson. YRF arranged for 20 injured troops and family members to attend from Walter Reed.

And then the bus broke down.

But Colonial Beach wasn’t going to let that come between them and the service members on that bus. Within 10 minutes, a fleet of cars and trucks were racing to the rescue, ferrying their guests into town.

Meanwhile, one injured soldier pointed to a motorcycle and told YRF’s Ashley Keene that was what he’d ride the rest of the way if he could. Ashley went to the bike’s owner and the soldier got his wish.

At the dinner, High Tides on the Potomac restaurant served up food for all, the Rock Bottom Band played, and the general manager of All-American Harley picked up the drink tab for the 20 honored guests from Walter Reed.

Although it wasn’t a fundraiser, the town spontaneously passed the hat and raised $1,500 for the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

It was a day no one would forget. YRF thanks all those named above, as well as the Maryland Patriot Guard and Maryland Blue Knights motorcycle clubs, the Sheriff’s Offices of Charles and King George counties, American Legion Post 82, and everyone who turned out to support America’s injured heroes and their families!