Newsroom

Red and Black on White CMYK
1

GI Receives $25,000 Donation from Sport Clips Haircuts

Gratitude Initiative Receives $25,000 Donation from Sport Clips Haircuts
to Help Children of Fallen Military Members

Bryan, Texas (May 24, 2017) – Gratitude Initiative (GI), a non-profit that provides essential education programs and college scholarships to the children of our active duty military, veterans, disabled vets, and those killed in defense of our country, has received a $25,000 donation from Sport Clips Haircuts to provide college preparatory and tutoring programs to children whose parents paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

Gratitude Initiative was started in 2013 by Lee Sechrist, a former Army officer and disabled veteran, and is the only non-profit of its type providing comprehensive college preparatory and tutoring programs. GI supports students from 8th grade through college graduation with the tools and programs proven to put young people on the path to educational and career success and are completely FREE to the families they serve.

Gratitude Initiative’s main strategies are to:

1. Provide essential college planning and academic support services, free of charge, to help military and veteran children achieve their educational and career goals.
2. Award college scholarships to qualifying students participating in our program to attend college or technical school.
3. Raise awareness of the challenges brought on by having a mother or father deployed overseas for military service or dealing with the disability or death of a parent due to military service.

“Since 9/11, 51,000 children have parents who have been wounded or killed and that number continues to grow,” says Sechrist. “Over 16 years of fighting has taken an incredible toll on our military families, the children in particular. The statistics are staggering when you look at what these children go through and the struggles they have academically. We want to help put them on a path to succeed and triumph through what is already a challenging time in their lives.”

GI serves families around the globe and partners with numerous organizations that provide services to Gold Star Children in support of families who have had a service member killed in defense of our country. GI quickly comes alongside the surviving spouse and child to walk every step of the way through high school to college transition process, immediately helping to reduce stress on the family.

Sport Clips is no stranger to supporting military organizations and their families. Prior to founding Sport Clips, CEO Gordon Logan served as an aircraft commander in the U.S. Air Force, so this donation to Gratitude Initiative holds special meaning for him. “Sport Clips is focused on providing ‘haircuts with heart,’ and one of the key ways we meet that objective is through on-going support of our nation’s military,” he says. “More than one million children in the United States have had parents deploy one or more times since 9/11. Supporting Gratitude Initiative to help these young people with their education will benefit them in reaching their academic goals, and we’re proud to be a part of this good work.”

“Mr. Logan, a veteran himself, knows intimately what these families endure,” said Sechrist. “This donation from Sport Clips is invaluable to families who have given so much of themselves to protect our country and our freedom. There is no greater way to honor their sacrifice than to help prepare their kids for college.”

###
About Gratitude Initiative

Gratitude Initiative (GI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides essential education programs and college scholarships to the children of our active duty military, veterans, disabled vets, and those killed in defense of our country. GI serves families around the globe providing students from 8th grade through college graduation with the tools and programs proven to put young people on the path to educational and career success. For more information about Gratitude Initiative, please visit www.gratitudeinitiative.org.

About Sport Clips Haircuts

Sport Clips Haircuts is headquartered in Georgetown, Texas. ItEntrepreneur Magazine as one of the “Fastest-Growing Franchises” and in the top 10 in its “Franchise 500.” There are more than 1,600 Sport Clips stores open in the U.S. and Canada. Sport Clips is the “Official Haircutter” of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), offers veterans preferential pricing on haircuts and franchises, and was named a “2016 Best for Vets: Franchises” by Military Times. Sport Clips provides “haircuts with heart” through its annual Help A Hero fundraiser that has given $5 million to the VFW; national partnership with St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants; and other national and local philanthropic outreach. Sport Clips is a proud sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin and Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones, and partners with numerous NCAA and professional sports teams. To learn more about Sport Clips, visit sportclips.com.

Kaitlyn and Hannah Norwood
6

Twins on a Mission

Meet Kaitlyn and Hannah, the optimistic service-driven twin daughters of an active duty Army Colonel who live with Mom in Texas while Dad is stationed in Washington D.C.

The girls spent most of their formative years moving every 2-3 years, but have called Texas home since the end of 7th grade. Mom and Dad always knew that they wanted their girls to have the full, sports-crazy Texas high school experience that they’d had.

The girls are thriving in Texas and they credit their many moves to that success. Kaitlyn explains, “I’ve lived in so many places, I can talk to anyone. No one’s a stranger.” Hannah adds, “We know what it’s like to be the new kid; I can spot them, and then I help them adjust.”

Overlooking their own struggles, they reach out to others. According to the girls, that’s just part of being in a military family, “Service is an essential part of everyone’s life in the military.”

Kaitlyn, who plays the trombone and is the drum major at her school, wants to be a doctor in emergency medicine. She credits her upbringing with that decision. “Through my leadership opportunities, I’ve learned to get along with all ages. I can take charge under pressure. I notice the little things; I’m very observant.” These skills will certainly help her in the medical field.

Hannah, who is in her school’s varsity choir and show choir, wants a career in psychology. She fell in love with the field in her AP Psychology class. “I love to listen and I can relate to different types of people because of my experiences. Living all over the US, and in England and Belgium, exposed me to different cultures, races, and religions. I don’t judge others.”

But life isn’t all about high school, marching band, and musicals. The girls miss their Dad—especially when he isn’t there for big events—and there are lots of them for these active high school juniors.

During Dad’s four deployments to Southwest Asia and Afghanistan, the girls learned to adjust and rely on their mom, “It was just the three of us and our dog.” Being stationed in DC now, Dad tries to get home every 2-3 months and for that they are grateful.

When asked about other hardships they endured, Hannah relates, “We could see our relatives only once or twice a year—less when we were overseas.” And Kaitlyn adds, “When we knew ahead of time that we’d be moving, it made us reluctant to form deep attachments.”

Always searching for the bright side, the girls happily declare that they have friends all over the globe and use social media to stay connected. Hannah’s best friend lives in Dubai.

Both girls are enjoying the connections they are making in the Gratitude Initiative (GI) College Success Academy. Kaitlyn says, “I like that I can call them and ask questions because the counselors at my school aren’t very helpful on an individual basis.” Hannah loves the step-by-step guidance, “I got an email just the other day reminding me to sign up for the SAT by Friday. That was a big help!”

Mom pipes in, “I love that GI honors military kids for the service and sacrifices they’ve made.” That is something we at GI are very proud to do.

Kaitlyn and Hannah are on a mission to change the world for the better with their can-do attitude and devotion to serving others, and we are moved that with GI’s college and career planning program, we can help make that happen.

Gratitude Initiative (GI) is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit that provides essential education programs and college scholarships to military and veteran kids around the globe. GI’s programs are provided at no cost to the children and families of military service members, veterans, disabled veterans, and those killed in defense of our country.

CTL LOGO W TAG
1

Gratitude Initiative Named 2017 Carry the Load Non-Profit Partner

Gratitude Initiative (GI) is pleased to announce that we have been selected to be a 2017 Non-Profit Partner of Carry The Load (CTL) for the third year in a row.

GI’s founder, Lee Sechrist, says, “GI is honored to be selected as a Carry The Load Non-Profit Partner. They’ve helped us become a positive influence in the lives of military and veteran families around the globe. Carry The Load became an early supporter of Gratitude Initiative. Thanks to the exposure we have received through their events and the generous financial support they have provided, we have been able to expand our reach to military and veteran families much faster than we ever anticipated. We are making a positive impact on the lives of military and veteran kids around the world because of Carry The Load and we are grateful for their continued partnership.”

Carry The Load is a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is to provide an active way to honor and celebrate our nation’s heroes by connecting Americans to the sacrifices made by Military, Law Enforcement, Firefighters and First Responders.

What started as a mission to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day has broadened to include more than just our military heroes and more than just one holiday. Carry The Load works to bring all Americans together to participate in honoring our nation’s heroes every day.

There will be two national relays again this year to raise awareness and funds. The West Coast Relay starts on April 28th in Seattle, the East Coast Relay starts on April 30th in Boston, and both routes end in Dallas on May 28th at Reverchon Park. Check the CTL website for rallies along each of the routes and be sure to join us at the park on May 28-29th for a huge family friendly event honoring our heroes.

To get involved in Carry The Load’s mission, join a team, or make a donation, please go their website, www.carrytheload.org. You can also follow them on Facebook, and on Twitter or Instagram @CarryTheLoad. Who will you carry?

GI Family Spotlight: Marine Family Comes Home to Texas After Two Decades of Service

 

1-fleming-family

Garrett, the son of a USMC Lieutenant Colonel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is an optimistic, energetic young man who plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Marine officer. You’d never know by looking at him that he has had such a rough journey over the past five years. He lived in two different states and attended three different schools in three years. Until 7th grade, he and his sister Gracen, were both homeschooled by their faithful Mom due to the many mid-year moves around the country that Dad’s loyal service to our country required.

Now that Dad, an honorably discharged disabled veteran, has retired from active duty, the family has settled in Texas and things have calmed down a bit. However, Garrett, now a senior, is still paying the heavy price for the turmoil he experienced at such a critical point in his education. He was struggling academically and often felt overwhelmed. The family agrees that the GI program couldn’t have come along at a better time. They felt an immediate sense of relief once they joined.

It’s no mystery why Garrett’s favorite part of the GI program is having everything he needs all on one site. The way GI’s experts have organized the program makes it easy to use. Dad’s favorite part so far has been the FAFSA counseling, “Oh my gosh, that was so easy! I’m a Marine, a simple guy, but everything you showed us, from the video, to the email instructions, to the guides, to being able to call you . . . it’s been seamless, and easy, and it’s done!”
Dad went on to say, “But the program itself . . . it’s educating us on how to enhance our children’s educational experience and pointing us towards the things that are out there that we are just flat ignorant of. This service has been invaluable and we really, really look forward to knowing that we have a foundation now that we can fully exploit as we go through this program with Gracen.” Gratitude Initiative is beyond honored to help relieve the stress of college planning for this amazing family who has proudly served their country.

Gratitude Initiative (GI) is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit that provides essential education programs and college scholarships to military and veteran kids around the globe. GI’s programs are provided at no cost to the children and families of military service members, veterans, disabled veterans, and those killed in defense of our country.

GI Family Spotlight: High School Senior Grows Up Fast During Dad’s Many Deployments

3-long-family-photo-plane

As the only son of a US Marine Corps pilot who proudly served his country for over 20 years, Bradley had to be the man of the house when his dad was deployed.  It’s a job he is proud to have taken on for his family because it taught him about leadership and responsibility.  Sometimes it was hard juggling multiple family duties, including home and vehicle repairs, along with school work and sports, but as the quarterback for his high school football team, he learned how to prioritize his time.  

Bradley was uncomfortably shy as a kid, but sheer determination brought him out of his shell and into the world of sports.  He plans to use his boundless imagination and energy, along with his admirable leadership skills, to pursue a career in construction management—a career choice he credits to GI.  “They helped me narrow my majors down with the aptitude test and I really liked that I could find all the information for different job fields and requirements in one place.”

One of his favorite parts of the program so far has been the unlimited SAT and ACT test prep.  His use resulted in in a 90-point increase on his SAT! Another favorite part was the essay editing advice.  His advisor patiently worked with Bradley through multiple essays and multiple versions to make sure each essay was his absolute best work.  

Here’s what Mom and Dad have to say: “As parents of a senior, we had no idea the stress of getting our child prepared for college. We really had no idea what we were in for. Gratitude Initiative has been such a life saver. They have guided us through the process and have been with us every step of the way. We know there are programs that offer only a fraction of what this program offers for a hefty price, so the fact that this program exists for free for our military kids is such a gift. We cannot thank the GI program enough for helping us with this process. This is such an amazing organization and we are so happy that our family was given this opportunity.”  Gratitude Initiative is privileged to work with this family who has given so much to keep our nation safe.

Gratitude Initiative (GI) is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit that provides essential education programs and college scholarships to military and veteran kids around the globe. GI’s programs are provided at no cost to the children and families of military service members, veterans, disabled veterans, and those killed in defense of our country.

GI Family Spotlight: A Proud Air Force Family with Five College Bound Sons

2-jackson-family-8x10

Meet the the “J” family! (Name shortened for security reasons.) They have five brilliant sons, one already in college and four more on the way. Three of those are members of Gratitude Initiative’s College Success Academy—the fifth is too young now, but will be joining as soon as he enters the 8th grade! When the family heard about the GI program, they were quick to sign up—they wanted expert advice to avoid some of the pitfalls they ran into with their oldest son.

Dad, currently a Master Sergeant in the Air Force, has served in Saudi Arabia, Iraq (two deployments), Bahrain, Qatar, Uzbekistan, and Korea. While Dad’s on active duty, Mom’s busy homeschooling the boys and working part time on base. They are very grateful for the GI program, “We love having experts behind us – a watchful eye and guiding hand as we journey through this college adventure with our boys. Schools do not always know or reveal all the information.”

Eli, the senior, loves having a second set of eyes to help him make his college decisions and review his scholarship essays. Aaron, the sophomore, appreciates the extra insight as he researches his career and college options, along with the encouragement he receives from our counselors for the steps he has completed so far. And Joshua, the 8th grader, finds the career and college resources helpful as he takes deliberate, guided steps in the program to help him determine his path after high school. Gratitude Initiative is grateful beyond measure to provide the college-planning experts this family needs and looks forward to working with them for quite a long time.

Gratitude Initiative (GI) is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit that provides essential education programs and college scholarships to military and veteran kids around the globe. GI’s programs are provided at no cost to the children and families of military service members, veterans, disabled veterans, and those killed in defense of our country.

GI_studentrecruitingpiece-blogimage
8

Gratitude Initiative Now Enrolling Students in free College Prep and Online Tutoring Programs

In honor of Military Family Appreciation Month, Gratitude Initiative (GI) is now enrolling the first students in our College Success Academy. The programs are completely free to qualified children of military and veteran families, providing college and career counseling, SAT & ACT Test Prep, and tutoring for math and science. The programs are delivered online, providing students and their parents access to a their own team of live, degreed counselors and tutors to support them wherever they are stationed around the globe.

Students in 8th – 11th grade are eligible to apply for the program if they have a parent who meets one of the following criteria:

  • Active duty member of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard
  • Veteran honorably discharged from active duty on or after 9/11/2001
  • Reserve or National Guard member who was activated for active duty service since 9/11/2001 and was deployed to a combat zone
  • A combat wounded or disabled veteran with a service connected injury that occurred on or after 9/11/2001
  • A service member killed on active duty

Students and families can learn more and apply online. The number of students enrolled each year is limited based on available funding and the number of qualified applicants.

Individuals and corporations interested in supporting the program and expanding GI’s support for military families may donate online or contact us for additional partnership information.

GI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is to provide educational support and college scholarships to the children and families of military service members, veterans, disabled veterans, and those killed in defense of our country.

golfTournamentFeaturedImage
2

Gratitude Initiative Selected Charity Recipient of 2015 Halliburton Charity Golf Tournament

On October 13 and 14, Gratitude Initiative will be among a select group of charities participating in The Halliburton Charity Golf Tournament, an annual event that has contributed nearly $11 million to non-profit organizations that strengthen our communities and improve the lives of those in need.

This year, Halliburton and their generous sponsors have raised $3 million dollars to support this year’s charities. Proceeds from the Halliburton Charity Golf Tournament benefit a select number of charities that plan to make a significant impact through a major capital expenditure or a special community program.

Gratitude Initiative is honored to be among the charities selected and is grateful to Halliburton’s many partners who make this generous support possible.

12009556_10153555101849870_2273036642485318295_n
3

Carry The Load Announces Gift of $1 Million to Support Military and First Responders – Reveals expansion in 2016

Carry The Load announced Saturday at the Bell Helicopter Fort Worth Alliance Air Show gifts totaling $1,170,000 in 2015 to 17 local and national non-profits who provide direct services to military, law enforcement, firefighters and rescue personnel. The donations will support each organization’s mission to help military and first responders.

Dallas, TX (PRWEB) September 14, 2015

Carry The Load announced Saturday at the Bell Helicopter Fort Worth Alliance Air Show gifts totaling $1,170,000 in 2015 to 17 local and national non-profits who provide direct services to military, law enforcement, firefighters and rescue personnel. The donations will support each organization’s mission to help military and first responders.

The Carry The Load 2015 nonprofit partners include:

Adaptive Training Foundation
Assist the Officer
Attitudes & Attire
Austin Street Shelter
Building Homes for Heroes
Center for Brain Health
Comfort Crew
Equest: Hooves for Heroes
Gratitude Initiative
Heroes on the Water
Lt. Todd W Krodle Memorial Foundation
Legacies Alive, Marine Corps – Law Enforcement Foundation
Serve Who Serve
Sons of the Flag
Snowball Express
Team RWB
Tip of the Spear

“We are proud to support these great organizations in their efforts to help Americans remember the sacrifices of our fallen service members and encourage families and friends to be triumphant in a time of need,” said Stephen Holley, co-founder of Carry The Load.

Former Navy SEALs, Clint Bruce and Holley started Carry The Load out of anger and a belief that the nation did not care about the sacrifices of Veterans. The mission of Carry The Load is to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day. The organization provides an interactive way for individuals to engage and show their support to military, law enforcement, firefighters and rescue personnel.

“After 5 years, thousands of supporters and millions of dollars raised, it has become obvious that people do care,” said Debbie Wright, executive director of Carry The Load. “That’s why in 2016 we are expanding the National Relay to include a West Coast route in addition to the East Coast. It will all culminate in Dallas on Memorial Day.”

Visit CarryTheLoad.org for information on becoming a corporate sponsor, joining the relay, making a donation, and volunteering. Follow Carry the Load on Facebook, Twitter (@CarryTheLoad) and Instagram.

About the Carry The Load

Carry The Load is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2011 by two former Navy SEALs. Carry The Load’s mission is to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day by remembering, honoring and celebrating the sacrifices made on our behalf by America’s military, law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel, as well as their families. Funds raised for Carry The Load are used to further increase the number of cities participating in its Memorial May activities, and are also gifted to nonprofit partners who support and benefit America’s Military, First Responders and their families. For more information, go to CarryTheLoad.org.

blog_moftmkids_dna
0

Michael Vitacca: Reflections from a Military Teen

GI Celebrates the Month of the Military Child

When I was little, moving was an adventure. It was cool to go to a new town and a new house. There were new yards to explore and new friends to make. I remember one of our early PCS moves to Alabama. I was happy about the opportunity to see new things. As I got older, moving was still a pretty exciting experience. I made lots of friends all over the country, and saw places most people just read about. When we moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, I found the place that I really loved. I made tons of friends, did well academically and athletically, and just fit in. Eventually the thought of moving did creep up though. I didn’t want to leave my friends and home. Luckily I was able to finish my four years at Loyola College Prep and graduate with my friends. That was the first time I felt such a connection to a place, and leaving all I had worked so hard to accomplish would have been terrible.

I would say that military teens have so many more advantages than normal teens. We’ve had the opportunity to visit various places around the country and meet many people with different backgrounds and views. Those experiences give military teens the ability to get along with very diverse groups of people and handle a wide variety of situations. Also, we tend to be very resilient and adept at handling changes. Our lives are constantly subjected to deployments, moves, and other stressors that take a lot of time to learn how to deal with. However, our experience helps later in life.

There are disadvantages though. One of the biggest is that we never get to completely establish ourselves anywhere. Over and over, I would be doing great and making lots of friends, just to be torn away after a year or two. There were so many times I wished that I could’ve been on the same soccer team for more than a couple years, or that I had grown up with the same group of friends. So many of my friends met each other when they were very little. They grew up together and formed special bonds. I always had to work my way into those friend groups. It would have been nice to grow up in the same place.

Deployment was always a scary thing. I lived with the possibility of something happening to my dad and there was nothing I could do to stop it or help. When my dad deployed to Afghanistan, whenever something came up in the news regarding the war, I would always wonder if he was close to the event, or if it had the potential to hurt him. It’s extremely hard to deal with thoughts like those regularly.

I wish people knew just how hard it is to move around our whole lives. A lot of people are very supportive of us when we come into a new place, but there are still a lot of challenges that come with the territory. Even filling out college applications was extremely hard because of all the moves. There isn’t a box to explain why I was never in a club or on a team for more than a couple years at a time. We military kids are tough and we do well in new situations, but I wish people knew just how much of a toll those moves took on us.
Right now I’m studying Biomedical Science at Texas A&M. It’s an extremely interesting topic and has the potential to be a very good career. I’d like to pursue the medical field a little bit further and join the Air Force as a doctor. There are a whole lot of opportunities for doctors in the military, and it would allow me to give back to my country.

Editors Note: Special thanks to Michael Vitacca for sharing his personal reflections so that people can come to better understand the service and sacrifice of our military families and kids in particular.

Gratitude Initiative (GI) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit that helps build awareness of the great service of military families while providing educational support and college scholarships to the children and families of military service members, veterans, disabled veterans, and those killed in defense of our country.