One particular morning a few years ago, I was going through a pile of requests for funding when I was stopped dead in my tracks. There was one I just couldn’t ignore. What did he say? What was I reading?
The first sentence said, “I survived 9/11." I had to read on.
The request was from Chris Meek, the Co-Founder of SoldierStrong, a non-profit that supports fellow survivors, veterans and other populations in need. What Chris has done is make a revolutionary change in the lives of those who have sacrificed part of themselves to serve America.
On that fateful day of 9/11, Chris was a young 20-something new to the investment/financial world and whose office was located near the World Trade Center buildings – across the street. Little did he know his life would be forever changed that day.
After the attack, he raced into one of the targeted buildings and helped evacuate fellow workers and then he started to walk. He joined the throngs of people headed for safety in NJ. He remembers being given baby wipes for his stinging eyes – from the acrid air after the buildings' collapse.
He walked for hours and remembers how dusty his shoes were.
Arriving back at his apartment, and overwhelmed with the emotion of the day, he put his shoes back in his closet where he left them, still covered in dust, and for 20 years the dust remained on the shoes as a reminder of that tragic day.
From this experience, Chris knew he had to make a difference – to help those who had sacrificed part of themselves for America.
Chris and a friend founded SoldierStrong to bring attention and support to those who sacrifice and are in need. The socks program, for instance, helped those whose #1 need was having socks to wear in the cold as they experienced homelessness.
Another part of SoldierStrong included providing 35,000 paralyzed veterans access to exoskeleton suits as they recovered from the wounds of war.
And this is how I came to know Chris. He was inquiring about a potential OHT donation to help provide access to these suits – that would help a paralyzed veteran stand and take those precious next steps. (Today SoldierStrong has donated millions of dollars’ worth of suits to VA Medical Centers where veterans can sign up and go to "walk" for an hour at a time up to 3 times a week). Just being able to have some mobility and be upright has helped so many veterans on their road to a better recovery.
Needless to say, OHT made a donation, one of many, as our partnership with SoldierStrong grew. Together we have made a difference.
Did I ever meet Chris in person? Yes, I did, while on business in New York. We connected immediately and have continued to support each organization's mission. What I love most, though, is that Chris calls me “kiddo.” How great is that?????
Chris has gone on to write a book, Next Steps Forward. You can check it out HERE. A must read!
Soon I'll be sending you another story about StrongMind, another organization Chris founded, and I'll tell you how we have partnered once again to make a difference with the mental health challenges of our veterans. You won't want to miss it.
Thank you for the continued support. Without you we couldn't do what we do.