Sometimes, a name says it all.
May marked a decade that the Semper Fi Fund has remained always faithful to wounded, ill and injured Marines and sailors across the country.
The organization’s team of several hundred volunteers across the United States provides services to military families, service members and veterans, aiding treatment for conditions that include post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, among other conditions.
For a decade in North Carolina alone, more than 17,000 grants worth more than $22 million have been issued to active duty service members and veterans.
Nationally, more than 59,000 grants exceeding $78 million have been distributed to at least 10,000 service members.
“Hitting 10 years is absolutely a celebration,” said Laura Castellvi, 49, of Camp Lejeune. “It has been a true privilege to be with an organization that has accomplished so much in just 10 years. We’re not going to stop at 10, though. We have so many service members out there that still need us.”
Many of the men and women granted aid from the Semper Fi Fund will need assistance during and after their service, Castellvi said.
Serving those who serve
“It’s a wonderful feeling being able to assist them, whether it be an iPad for a TBI patient, a special mattress for an amputee, or anything in between,” said active duty case manager Beth Cooling, 47, of Camp Lejeune.
Grants are distributed within 24 to 72 hours after a request for assistance is processed.
Sometimes, the service member or veteran doesn’t even know someone requested something on his or her behalf, Cooling said.
“I will never forget my first case,” Cooling said. “It was an amputee who was in need of a new mattress.
“He kept telling me he was good and didn’t need our help,” Cooling said. “It just amazes me that they’re all so proud and humble. They want to be self-sufficient and not need our help. …But to see us improve their quality of life – it’s just the most perfect feeling in the world.”
“The absolute best part about helping a Marine or sailor still on active duty is that they are yours until they’re discharged from the military,” Cooling said. “They don’t get bounced around from person to person…. It allows for great friendships to be made – friendships that will always mean the world to me.”
Volunteering for veterans
Veteran case manager Lisa Killeen has been with Semper Fi Fund since its inception.
Despite immense growth, the mission of the Semper Fi Fund has broadened while essentially remaining the same, Killeen said.
Of every donated dollar, Killeen said, 94 cents pays for assistance to service members, veterans and their families.
But it’s about more than the money.
The Semper Fi Fund established a variety of events designed for those on active duty, along with veterans and civilians, including: the Marine Corps Marathon, for which the fund is the largest charity partner; the Community Athlete Program, which gets racers in events nationwide involved; Veteran 2 Veteran summits; and America’s Fund, an initiative launched in 2012 that extends assistance to members or veterans of the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard suffering severe injuries.
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