It’s no secret that the heavy-duty industry and the military are deeply entwined. We don’t have exact numbers, but a lot of military veterans wind up in the diesel field, either as technicians or truck drivers. To that end, there are many wonderful charities—among them Veterans Inc.—aimed at helping veterans get the services they need or transition into new roles.
For the month of November, the team at Fullbay Cares is partnering up with a slightly different kind of charity: Folds of Honor. Named for the folded flag that accompanies fallen military members, this wonderful charity provides scholarships to the spouses and children of injured or deceased military veterans, giving them the tools they need to move their lives forward.
These scholarships can be applied to any accredited secondary institution. That includes the kind of training required to become a diesel technician, whether you’re starting at the beginning or looking for additional certifications.
To learn more about Folds of Honor, its mission, and how we could help out, we spoke to Rachael Chapman, Regional Development Officer of Operations for the Arizona chapter of Folds of Honor. She shared the Folds of Honor story with us, as well as some fascinating information about the Arizona chapter and the organization itself.
WHAT IS FOLDS OF HONOR?
In 2007, then-Major Dan Rooney was a fighter pilot returning home from his second tour of duty in Iraq. When his flight landed, the pilot asked passengers to remain seated while they unloaded a very special kind of cargo: the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin, who was being released to his family.
As the major watched the corporal’s family collect his coffin, he wondered how they would go on. His thoughts turned to other families of fallen or injured service members. Who looks after them? How do they pick up the pieces after losing a family member? Often, the person hurt or killed was the breadwinner in the family. What were they supposed to do with that person gone? Who would help them establish a new life for themselves?
The major realized that one of the best ways to help families was to help them secure an education. That’s often a struggle even for those who don’t have an injured or deceased parent or spouse, as education can be quite pricey. Add grief and the challenges of a life turned upside-down and a good education can seem quite out of reach.
The major kept thinking about those families.
Later that year, he began Folds of Honor in the room above his garage in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The concept was simple: education is the #1 way to improve your circumstances. So Folds of Honor would focus exclusively on helping the spouses and children of fallen or injured service members obtain an education. As the years passed, the major became a lieutenant colonel and Folds of Honor continued to grow.
A UNIQUE WAY TO FUNDRAISE
To start raising funds for military families, Dan turned to a lifelong passion: golf. As a Class A member of PGA Golf of America, he came up with the idea of blending a good game of golf with charitable giving.
The idea took off: within the first year of operations, Folds of Honor raised over a million dollars for military families. Their first partner was the PGA Golf Tour. Word spread and efforts expanded, and today there are numerous ways for golfers (or people giving golf a try!) to make a donation.
Folds of Honor offers two types of scholarships for military families: The Children’s Fund and Higher Education. While you can read about both of them in detail on the website, Rachael provided a snapshot for our readers.
The Children’s Fund
- Available to children of military service members who have been injured or killed in the line of duty
- Available for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade
- Parents or guardians must reapply for the scholarship every year
- Available to the children or spouses of military service members killed or injured in the line of duty
- Can be put toward any kind of accredited secondary education, including a bachelor’s degree or technical certificate
- Young adults who have aged out of the Children’s Fund can apply for it
Each scholarship is worth up to $5,000 per year, and applications are accepted from February 1 through March 31. From there, the applications are reviewed until early July, when checks are dispatched. Folds of Honor makes the scholarship payments directly to the educational institution.
LOCAL AND NATIONAL REACH
A good portion of the charity’s success is due to its chaptering system. Many states have their own chapter (or several) focused on the education of military families within that state. These smaller regional offices allow Folds of Honor to set down roots in the local community and do real good for the people living in their state, and allows for a bottom-up rather than top-down flow of funds.
Since the Arizona chapter began in 2015, Rachael says, they’ve raised over 1.58 million dollars in scholarship money—and 30,000 scholarships—that they’ve been able to give back to local military families. Recipients of those scholarships have attended ASU, UA, NAU, Scottsdale Community College, and more, and 41% of the recipients have been minorities.
That success has rippled across the country.
Think about it: a giant charity with national reach can raise a lot of money, but then it has to somehow divvy up those funds among 50 states and countless cities. By working at the local level, Folds of Honor’s chapters can get scholarships to families who need them quickly.
As Rachael puts it, “Our goal is to meet whatever need we [military families of Arizona] have. We help the people in our state first; once we help them, [if we have additional money], we can help others.”
THE COVID IMPACT: A SILVER LINING
There’s no doubt about it: the COVID-19 pandemic hit everyone. We spoke to several charities who missed their fundraising goals due to canceled events and increasing financial strain on individual donors. Folds of Honor, however, saw a slightly different result.
In 2020, Arizona saw some of its best numbers: $500,000. Some of this came from their partnerships with businesses and corporations, but, “The individual donor is kind of who saved us,” Rachael says. “The individual donor during a crazy crisis and so much uncertainty…people were giving more than ever at that point.”
She believes the outpouring of help came from people trying to do something positive in a volatile, uncertain time. “I’m sure some of those who did give probably needed help themselves,” she says. “It was kind of like watching humankind come together.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
While Folds of Honor did all right in the pandemic, there are still many military families that need help funding their education.
This month, Fullbay Cares is donating a percentage of every signup we get to Folds of Honor, so now’s a great time to give us a try. But individuals can also help the family of a wounded or fallen service member by donating via their website. In addition, Rachael asked us to share her contact information in case someone wants to donate the old-fashioned way, by check, instead of online.
“We’re here to help,” Rachael says in closing. While she’s attached to the Arizona branch, she encourages members of military families all over to get in touch if they need assistance. “I can connect people to whoever they need to talk to. We have these scholarships available and we want to take care of these families.”