Thanks to Donna for this spotlight on the Gary Sinese Foundation. When the article first appeared on her blog, My OBT, I looked up Gary Sinese’s Foundation on Charity Navigator, where it earned a high recommendation, and I signed up to donate monthly. Our veterans and first responders deserve our support and our gratitude.
In 1994, Gary Sinise was cast to play the memorable Lt. Dan in the blockbuster movie Forrest Gump. That role changed everything for him, not just in terms of his acting career, but also as a person. Though Sinise had never served himself, after the movie, he found himself being approached by service members – and especially veterans – who thanked him for his thoughtful portrayal of the character. Until that movie, wounded warriors were typically portrayed in movies as hopeless and broken. But though Lt. Dan went through a lot of tough things that really resonated with the veterans, his character was eventually able to make a new life for himself. What Sinise had been thinking of as a relatively small part in a Hollywood movie had brought hope to many of the veterans who saw it. The actor was moved by the soldiers’ stories, and wanted to do something to help, so he joined the USO. But he quickly realized that wasn’t enough; he knew he needed to do more.
From those unexpected beginnings came the Gary Sinise Foundation, an organization that raises money to help active military, veterans, first responders, and their families. Here are a few of the Foundation’s major programs and what they do:
- RISE Program (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment): adapts/builds handicapped-accessible vehicles and homes to help wounded veterans with their particular physical challenges
- HOPE Program (Heal, Overcome, Persevere, Excel): offers emotional and financial support to veterans experiencing trauma, emotional distress, and injury.
- Snowball Express Program: creates a community of support for Gold Star families by gathering them together for trips and celebrations.
- First Responders Outreach Program: provides funds, equipment, training, and wellness programs for U.S. firefighters, police, and EMTs.
- Serving Heroes Program: cooks and serves homemade meals to soldiers at active military outposts to make them feel closer to home.
The Foundation also does plenty of community outreach on a smaller level, too. The organization hosts numerous festivals (including performances by the Lt. Dan Band) to support and celebrate our military and their families. And they’re not all talk, either. In 2018, 89.86% of every dollar contributed was applied directly to support military and their loved ones, earning them high marks among the agencies that rate not-for-profits.