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 buses make special moments like this happen”

Latest News on
Support Programs:

“TUF enough!”

Latest News on
Activities & Events:

“Caregivers learn how to cook up self-care”

Cpl Sean Adams, attended by SSgt Tim Chambers, salutes the passing American flag at Rolling Thunder.

Marine Corporal Sean Adams was in the median next to the Lincoln Memorial as a seemingly endless river of motorcycle riders roared past. It was Memorial Day in Washington, DC, site of the annual Rolling Thunder event. When the American flag fluttered past, carried by one of the riders, Sean saluted. It was a moment witnessed by hundreds of thousands of people, because in addition to the photo above snapped by his mother, a photo by a nearby Washington Post photographer appeared the next day in the newspaper and online. The picture captured what the day was about: Honoring the sacrifices made by heroes like Sean.

One of the benefits of YRF outings is the opportunity to be reminded that they are not alone, that their sacrifices are appreciated by others.

Meaningful moments like this are made possible by the Yellow Ribbon Fund. Earlier that day, Sean boarded a YRF-chartered bus at Walter Reed along with his mother and caregiver, Tina, and dozens of other injured service members and their caregivers. Police officers and Rolling Thunder representatives on motorcycles escorted the bus into downtown Washington, DC.

YRF’s transportation and housing director, Diane Shoemaker, oversees loading a wheelchair-accessible bus at Walter Reed.

At the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, the passengers from Walter Reed disembarked for front row seating under a YRF tent stocked with food and beverages. At the end of the day, the YRF bus whisked them back to Walter Reed.

Specially equipped buses make outings possible for many injured service members.

Wheelchair-accessible buses — paid for by YRF and arranged for and escorted by our staff — enable injured service members and their families to expand their horizons, stress-free. YRF’s bus transportation takes them on dozens of VIP tours and outings every year, from Civil War battlefields to New York City, from sporting events to fishing trips.

Poolesville and White’s Ferry, Md., turned out to welcome the YRF bus bringing injured troops and families to a community barbecue in their honor, which raised funds for YRF and other charities.

An added benefit: The time on the bus gives them a chance to visit and bond with each other in a way that isn’t possible during busy days at the hospital. Buses are an example of the practical, hands-on support provided by the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

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.

At YRF’s cooking class, busy caregivers learn how to prepare easy, healthy, delicious meals to help them stay strong.

Family caregivers are so busy taking care of their injured loved ones (and often their children as well), that meals are usually an afterthought.

“But after awhile you get sick of take-out,” says Jessica Klein, who coordinates YRF’s family caregiver program at Walter Reed in between caring for her own injured husband.

For caregivers, it’s hard to take time to eat right, and that makes it hard to stay strong. One remedy is YRF’s cooking class for caregivers.

The USO’s location at Walter Reed makes it easy for caregivers to attend.

Now held once a month in the USO building on the Walter Reed campus in Bethesda, Md., the class’s recipes always have three things in common: they’re easy, healthy, and mouth-wateringly delicious!

While caregivers are learning, they’re also connecting with each other for mutual support that continues long after the class is over.

The current teacher is Karla Brischke, a culinary school student who volunteers her knowledge and skill. She discussed “brain food” during a class that had salmon on the menu.

It’s easy to see why the classes are always filled to capacity!

“Antioxidants” were the tasty subject of the class pictured above. On that day caregivers learned to prepare watermelon gazpacho; quinoa salad with goat cheese, asparagus, and black olives; cabbage and chicken Thai salad; and cherry and apricot sorbet.

The recipes are simple, no special equipment required.

Everything can be prepared in the small, basic kitchens available to the caregivers in the dormitory-style housing where they live with their injured loved ones at Walter Reed.

After learning to prepare the food, the caregivers get to eat it!

Two additional volunteers help Chef Karla teach a dozen caregivers during each class in the USO’s kitchen. The popular cooking class is always filled to capacity. That’s because, like all YRF programs, it’s the result of YRF’s unique insight into the real needs of injured service members and their families, and our commitment to meet those needs.