Today is Game Day, Auburn vs. Alabama, #1 vs. #4, the “Game of the Century”. I’d like to take a moment to put this into perspective. One team wins and one loses. There will be a lot of Facebook posting and smack-talking, 2nd guessing by the armchair quarterbacks while one fan base enjoys the victory and another feels the agony of defeat and thinks about what could have been.
However, not all of America will be watching this game. Yesterday, I called a Colonel with the 7th Special Forces Group stationed at Eglin AFB, to ask if he had someone under his command who would like tickets to this game. He told me he was in the Atlanta airport on his way to Texas to meet the family and attend the funeral, today on Game Day, of one of his soldiers that was recently killed by an IED in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on his first deployment.
This really hits home and puts things into perspective. Win or lose the fans are so passionate that some will call in sick to work on Monday because they are so devastated. Over the years I have seen trees set on fire and poisoned, fights break out post-game and more, all over a simple game of football while our young men and women are putting their lives on the line, risking death and life-altering injury to fight against terrorism and keep our country safe.
Four years ago, my wife Jana and I started Gameday For Heroes as a community service project of our local Auburn Club. We raised funds and bought six season tickets that were designated for wounded heroes. Then our club members began donating tickets they weren’t using and these went to not only wounded, but active duty and veterans to experience the college Gameday atmosphere. We invited them to tailgate with us and quickly realized how great a way this is to give back.
We received great feedback from the military that participated. Some told us it provided a great bonding time with their families, especially after long deployments away. Others with PTSD have stated that being at a game helped them with the fear of crowds and loud noises. All are most appreciative for the donors that make it possible for them to attend a game. Many have never been to a college game before and experienced the pageantry and festivities that may only be seen on a college football campus.
Gameday For Heroes has since grown rapidly and has sent military to college games in over 30 colleges. Last year alone, over 2,900 tickets were donated for military to attend regular season games, and also four BCS bowl games.
Military can visit our website and request tickets to college sporting events – football, basketball, baseball and more… Unfortunately, we have many more requests than we do tickets but hopefully as the word about this program spreads more requests will be granted.
Having tickets donated to the big rivalry games is a rarity, although we are fortunate to be sending military to Auburn vs. Alabama, Texas A&M vs. Missouri and Michigan vs. Ohio State today
However, when fans of just about any schools have tickets they are not using and tell us via the website they would like to donate them, we have a database full of military that would love to use those tickets. We can provide the donor with a tax letter for the face value of the tickets donated.
Want to get involved? How can you help?
- If you are a season ticket holder or know any college season ticket holders, spread the word about Gameday For Heroes. Consider hosting a Gameday For Heroes tailgate or other event.
- Consider buying and donating season tickets for your favorite school. You will know that military are benefiting and attending the games and sitting in seats provided by you.
- Consider making a monetary donation to help support the program. Gameday For Heroes is a 100% volunteer run organization without any paid staff. However, there are expenses associated with operations such as website and database, shipping, marketing, etc… that must be covered. We are a 501-c-3 organization and donations are deductible for tax purposes.
- Help sponsor a fundraising event in your city.
If you would like to get involved or learn more, visit us at www.gamedayforheroes.org or contact me at email@example.com.
Most importantly, say a prayer for the family in Texas that is burying a son, and a brother today. He lost his life defending us and our freedom so that we can do things like put 87,451 fans into a stadium and watch a game take place. And the next time you see a service member, thank them for their service!!