SPRINGFIELD, Va. – Hope For The Warriors hosted its 10th Annual Got Heart Give Hope Gala Thursday at Union Station in Washington, DC. The annual event honored three members of our nation’s armed forces and their families with the Vigiano Family Hope & Courage Award. In celebration of the event’s 10th year, six new awards were introduced highlighting individuals, corporations and organizations who have stood beside Hope For The Warriors in serving military families.
Hosted by award-winning actor/humanitarian Gary Sinise and retired U.S. Marine Col. Barney Barnum Jr., this year’s gala honored the memory of John Vigiano Sr. (1938-2018). A longtime Hope For The Warriors volunteer and supporter, John and his family have lived a life of service. Vigiano, a former Marine, retired as a decorated FDNY fire captain. Despite his record of service, John was most proud of his family and the paths his two sons chose: John Jr., a FDNY firefighter, and Joe, a NYPD detective, both who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.
“John’s legacy is one of honor, courage and resiliency,” said Robin Kelleher, Hope For The Warriors co-founder and CEO. “He was a fighter in every sense of the word. The way he selflessly served his community inspires our work at Hope For The Warriors. We are forever grateful to have known John and the entire Vigiano family. Our nation is a better place because of his service.”
Emceeing the event was News 4’s Leon Harris and delivering the keynote speech was retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Jeff Mellinger. Serving in an airborne unit on numerous deployments, Mellinger dedicated 40 years to serving in the armed forces completing over 3,700 jumps with 33 hours in freefall.
Demonstrating exceptional acts of courage and service and who embody the essence of self, family and hope, this year’s Vigiano Family Hope & Courage Award honorees included:
- Retired U.S. Army Colonel David Sutherland, chairman of the Center for Military and Veterans Community Services (Dixon Center). Sutherland actively contributes to numerous national veteran and military family committees and boards. Speaking at universities, businesses and conferences around the country, Sutherland is a vocal advocate for our service members, military veterans, their families, and the families of the fallen. He culminated his 29 years of service following Brigade Command, as the Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with principle focus on Warrior and Family Support. For more on Sutherland’s story, visit: hopeforthewarriors.org/newsroom/got-heart-give-hope-gala-colonel-david-sutherland/.
- Retired U.S. Marine Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Hedgcorth has been with Hope For The Warriors since the very beginning, with the organization’s founding at Camp Lejeune and later Wounded Warrior Battalion East. Hedgcorth has always been willing to help and is a constant advisor on how to best care for the warriors served by the nonprofit. Injured in 2004, his group sparked the conversations that eventually became the Wounded Warrior Battalion. He’s devoted his energy in caring for others and instilling principles like accountability, structure and purpose…building those things back into the lives of wounded veterans. For more on Hedgcorth’s story, visit: hopeforthewarriors.org/newsroom/got-heart-give-hope-gala-chris-hedgcorth/.
- Colleen Rose, military spouse and caregiver to her retired U.S. Marine Corps husband. Rose has been touched by every part of Hope For The Warriors on a personal level. Yet those at the nonprofit feel they are the ones who have benefitted more by knowing Rose. Shaped by her husband’s service and story, her journey is just as impactful when talking about commitment, resiliency and attitude. For more on Rose’s story, visit: hopeforthewarriors.org/newsroom/got-heart-give-hope-gala-colleen-rose/.
The following individuals, corporations and organizations have stood beside Hope For The Warriors from inception and continue to serve military families. This year’s inaugural Partners in Mission recipients included:
- Tom Lyons received the Harry Bridgwood Lifetime Service Award which is presented to a Vietnam-era veteran who has committed his or her life to serving the next generations of the warrior community. Lyons served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1967-1970 which includes a combat tour in Vietnam. He has served as director for Community Services Department at MassHousing Agency, is a member of the Secretary of the VA Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans, Chairman of the Massachusetts Veteran and War Memorial Commission and a member of the Governor’s Veterans Advisory Council and Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Veterans Housing. Lyons is the recipient of the 2011 “Marine For Life” Award presented by General James Amos, 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, for his 30 years of advocacy on behalf of our nation’s veterans. A longtime friend to Hope For The Warriors and its mission, he was recently appointed to the organization’s Board Council.
- Johnny Bench and Doug Flynn received the Gary Sinise Community Service Award which is presented to an individual who puts his or her patriotism in action to serve military families and raise awareness of the needs of the military community.Bench and Flynn made history as part of the “Big Red Machine,” the Cincinnati Reds’ lineup that won the 1975 and 1976 World Series. Their team spirit and friendship has lasted over the decades, as has their commitment to veterans and Hope For The Warriors. They serve as the celebrity co-hosts of the annual Hope For The Warriors Invitational, and work yearlong speaking on behalf of Hope For The Warriors while raising support and awareness for its mission.
- Greater Washington Board of Trade, Jack McDougle received the Chairman’s Award for Corporate Citizenship which is presented to a group which not only highlights the benefits of veterans in the workplace but leads by example in enriching the lives of military families, both active-duty and retired. For 130 years, the Board of Trade has represented all industry sectors in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia. Pro-business and non-partisan, they drive smart, innovative solutions for inclusive economic growth and livability, including positively influencing the region to welcome the veteran population in its workforce and community.
- Sikorsky, Dan Schultz received the Veteran Impact Award which is presented to a company where veterans are valued as part of company culture, both as employees and as significant contributors to the community.Sikorsky makes hiring veterans a priority and has created a workplace atmosphere with the goal of attracting and retaining veterans. Sikorsky is committed to professional development and providing opportunities for veteran employees to continue serving through nonprofits like Hope For The Warriors, including the annual Sunset Run For The Warriors race in Shelton, Connecticut.
- Fisher House Foundation received the Partner in Hope Award which is presented to longtime strategic alliance of Hope For The Warriors. Hope For The Warriors’ most effective and meaningful partnership has been with Fisher House Foundation. With aligning missions, the duo has frequently joined forces to assist the warrior community. This year, when the U.S. Coast Guard was affected by a partial government shutdown, Fisher House Foundation and Hope For The Warriors acted quickly to provide over $20,000 in critical support to 395 active-duty Coast Guard families in 37 states.
- River Landing Community received the Community Impact Award which is presented to a group of individuals who not only define community but also have a shared commitment to uplifting the warrior community in their area.For the last decade, the Wallace, North Carolina-based River Landing has hosted the Hope For The Warriors Invitational, which brings together celebrities, flag officers and corporate executives for a weekend-long golf event in support of Hope For The Warriors. Golfers are paired with active-duty military and veterans for a time of camaraderie and appreciation. Even after Hurricane Florence completely flooded the River Landing community in 2018, event organizers came together and made this year’s Invitational their priority to get back to business and ready for the annual event.
For more information on the 10th Annual Got Heart Give Hope Gala, visit hopeforthewarriors.org.
About Hope For The Warriors: Founded in 2006, Hope For The Warriors is a national nonprofit dedicated to restoring a sense of self, family and hope for post 9/11 veterans, service members and military families. Since its inception, Hope For The Warriors has served over 23,200 through a variety of support programs focused on clinical health and wellness, sports and recreation and transition. One of the nonprofit’s first programs, Military Spouse and Caregiver Scholarships, has awarded over 135 scholarships to caregivers and families of the fallen. In addition, Run For The Warriors has captured the hearts of over 25,500 since 2010. For more information, visit hopeforthewarriors.org, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
About Got Heart Give Hope Gala: Since 2010, the Hope and Courage Awards have been presented to service members and military family members who have demonstrated both hope and courage in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Named in honor of the Vigiano family, Captain John Vigiano Sr., retired FDNY, and his wife, Jan, gave both of their sons on 9/11—one served as a fire fighter and the other served as a police officer in New York City. The Vigiano family has continued to serve by supporting service members and military families. In celebration of the event’s 10th year, six new awards were introduced highlighting individuals, corporations and organizations who have stood beside the organization in serving military families.