2015 was an exciting launch year for the Wings for Val Foundation. It all started last January, when we reorganized and relaunched the website to showcase all the amazing stories about and tributes to our faithful, fearless Val since her passing on 3/11/13. This propelled our family into the process of incorporating as an official 501(c)3 non-profit to use Val’s story as a way to inspire future generations of female leaders, and we haven’t looked back since. Here are a few of our top highlights from 2015:
- Val’s parents went on a mission trip to Guatemala with the Travis Manion Foundation at the end of January with other gold star family members to build a house for a very poor family in honor of their fallen loved ones. Read a reflection on or watch this video interview about their journey and how Val’s legacy now lives on in a remote village in Guatemala.
- On February 9th, Val’s dad led an “Adapt and Overcome” team participating in the 100K Vertical Challenge fundraising event at Whitetail Ski Resort for the Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation. Our team raised over $20,0000 to go towards helping wounded veterans and families. We also awarded the first “Service Wings for Val” to Executive Director, Bill Dietrich, for all his work helping wounded veterans adapt to and overcome their physical limitations. We look forward to another big year supporting this great organization– pledge your support here!
- In March, we were thrilled to have awarded the second LT Valerie Cappelaere Delaney Memorial Scholarship to Ashley Taylor from McCall, Idaho in person at the Women in Aviation, International conference in Dallas. We also awarded last year’s recipient, Chelsea, with a special Wings for Val medal for recently earning her helicopter pilot’s license. We are building an amazing network of female aviators who embody Val’s characteristics. Read blog post here. In March 2016, we will be awarding the third recipient in Nashville, and I will be speaking at the conference, as well!
- March 11, 2015 marked the 2nd year anniversary of Val’s passing.. hard to believe. We had some amazing tributes shared that day, including: Val’s dad “Poppies will grow” blog, my story of Val’s motto “Adapt and Overcome”, and Mission BBQ launching their first “Stories of Service” video series about Val. Mission BBQ is a rapidly growing chain with amazing food and an even more amazing mission to honor our nation’s servicewomen and men; they are dear friends of our family and we have many of Val’s memorabilia hung on the walls of their restaurants throughout MD.
- Through most of the Spring we worked diligently to complete the paperwork to achieve our non-profit status and to plan a big kick-off event weekend in September. We also formed a stellar advisory committee of Val’s closest friends and fellow servicewomen to help inform our efforts.The kick-off event went better than we could have ever imagined — we had over 150 people at the Women In Military Service For America Memorial on Saturday, 65 runners on our Wings for Val team in the Travis Manion Foundation Annapolis 9/11 Heroes Run on Sunday, and a total of $10,000 raised towards supporting our mission!!
- We connected with Warrior Canine Connection, an incredible organization that trains service dogs and pairs them with wounded veterans. We were honored that they named the only girl in a new litter of black labs, Delaney, after our Val…. AND, several months later after finding out that Delaney has a health defect that will not allow her to complete her service training to be paired with a wounded vet, Val’s parents decided to adopt her!! This will be official in January and more pictures/details to come!
- In October, at the Navy Women’s Lacrosse alumni night, Val’s parents gave the first ever Wings for Val award to a current player who exhibits similar team spirit and hustle as Val did (#6, Class of ’09). Senior Molly McNamara received this honor and her name was etched into a custom plaque that will hang proudly and accumulate with a new name each year.
- Val’s dad became trained as an ambassador for the Travis Manion Foundation‘s “Character Does Matter” (CDM) program, which inspires young adults to live with character and adopt the “If Not Me, Then Who…” ethos into their daily lives. He completed several presentations to share a message of courage, integrity, leadership, and service with young adults in the area. We are working to adapt this presentation to include several stories of female fallen heroes to be able to especially focus on inspiring young women… and we also have started working on developing personalized challenge coins that will be used and tracked to “honor the fallen by challenging the living.”
- WordPress also did a cool year-end report of our action on the blog.. apparently we had over 16,000 views on our blog/website this year! Click here to see the complete report. Facebook is going strong with nearly 735 likes… can we get to 1,300+ this year?! We will also be redesigning our website and logo/branding, so look out for that soon.
These are just a few of the highlights from our 2015 launch year, and I’m extremely humbled, amazed and thankful reflecting back on all that we’ve done this past year to continue honoring Val’s legacy. We have had incredible support to help us get started with these efforts and we are so grateful!! Please consider continued contributions by visiting our website here: http://wingsforval.org/donate/. We have a lot of exciting things in store for 2016 and we can’t do it without your support!
Many blessing for a faithful, fearless 2016!