Washington Monthly | by Laura Mitchell, The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation | December 5, 2017 | LINK TO ARTICLE
I sit writing this article in the aftermath of multiple natural disasters—historic hurricanes and flooding in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, fires raging in the northwest U.S. and earthquakes abroad. The devastation is shocking in both its magnitude and its persistence. Yet what amazes me most is not the destruction, but the overwhelming sense of spirit in humanity, the coming together of neighbors and strangers alike to help one another, and the outpouring of leadership from everyday citizens.
Time and again, what proves most poignant to me is the value of these human connections. Chaos and devastation have a unique way of shining a spotlight on humanity’s capacity for love and compassion and, as inconceivable as it may sound, revealing beauty in the suffering.
This isn’t the first time I’ve marveled at the value of human connection. At The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, we make it our daily work to uncover pockets of goodness where people and organizations come to the aid of those who need it most. We make investments, in the form of grants, to organizations striving to improve the lives of our nation’s critically injured veterans and improve outcomes for individuals and families living in poverty.
Now in its sixth year, The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation has awarded more than $140 million in grants. Of that amount, our largest investment in a single organization is the $42 million awarded to Semper Fi Fund. The partnership started in 2012 with a conversation on the golf course. Bob and Renee Parsons were told by a friend (and, like Mr. Parsons, a Vietnam Marine veteran) that Semper Fi Fund was doing great work. After careful research, the couple decided to grant $1 million to the organization, which was the start of a long-standing relationship.
Semper Fi Fund is a veteran-serving organization which comes to the rescue, not in natural disasters like those of recent months, but in a national disaster felt every day—the disaster suffered by American military veterans who are committing suicide at the average rate of 20 per day.
Semper Fi Fund’s mission is to rebuild the lives of our nation’s most severely wounded and critically ill servicemen and women who suffer from the personal devastations and disasters of war. Initially founded as a Marine-focused organization, the Fund now assists active military and post-9/11 veterans from all branches of the military.
The beneficiaries of Semper Fi Fund’s support include single, double and triple amputees, men and women gripped with debilitating post-traumatic stress, those with severe traumatic brain injuries, and individuals blinded and burned. In many cases, their spouses or other caregivers have given up their own lives to find a ‘new normal,’ and their children have been impacted in ways we simply cannot quantify.