DETROIT – Detroit Tigers All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander joined the Detroit Tigers Foundation, an affiliate of Ilitch Charities, to announce a commitment of $1 million to launch an initiative called Wins for Warriors that will support the mental health and emotional well-being of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans and their families in Detroit, Richmond and Norfolk.
Growing up outside of Richmond, Virginia, and pitching for Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia Justin was surrounded by two of the largest military populations in the country. Reports indicate that as many as one in three Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who experience combat will eventually experience significant mental health challenges. Sadly, many don’t seek help because of the stigma associated with receiving mental health care. Justin expressed, “my vision is to help erase the stigma around Veterans and their families that seek mental health services and join together to provide the support they need.”
Wins for Warriors is devoted to sustaining successful programs that work with Veterans and their families along the process to recovery because one size does not fit all. Over the next year, funds will be distributed to two best-in-class national organizations, Give An Hour and The Mission Continues, that have the expertise to have a long term impact on this population in the target markets.
“The Detroit Tigers organization commends Justin for the launch of his Wins for Warriors program and his overall dedication to Veterans and their families in Detroit, Norfolk and Richmond,” said Tigers President, CEO and General Manager David Dombrowski. “Justin’s new initiative is another example of his commitment to helping those Veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country.”
Give an Hour asks mental health professionals nationwide to donate an hour of their time each week to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families. The organization currently has nearly 7,000 providers nationwide who have already donated 94,000 hours of service, valued at $9.4 million. Partnering with Wins for Warriors, Give an Hour will launch two new positions on the ground in Detroit and the Richmond/Norfolk markets in order to coordinate services and provide additional mental health support and care to our the military communities there.
Founder and President, Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., said, “We are grateful to Wins for Warriors and to Justin Verlander for recognizing the needs of our military and Veteran communities. Justin clearly understands the importance of reaching our service members and Veterans in the communities in which they live and he is willing to use his celebrity to ensure that these men, women and families have access to the care they need and deserve. We have seen the impact that Justin has had on Major League Baseball and we are excited to work with him as we create a comprehensive and integrated system of care for the men, women and families who serve our country.”
The Mission Continues awards community service fellowships to post-9/11 Veterans, empowering them to transform their own lives by serving others and directly impacting their communities. The organization has been successful in dramatically improving the well-being of Veterans, helping them develop a sense of purpose and identity outside of military service. Partnering with Wins for Warriors, three new fellowships will be created, one from each of the three target regions. Army Veteran Meredith Knopp, Vice President of Programs, said, “Justin’s support will enable Veterans who have a passion for community service to redeploy on a new mission here at home. These Veterans are tremendous leaders, who—given this kind of opportunity—are ready to tackle and solve tough problems facing their local communities. We recognize the long-term impact on a veteran’s successful transition is a win-win for the nation, and is only made possible through generous contributions of partners like Justin and Win for Warriors.”
Wins for Warriors had the support of many expert advisors during the development of the program who will continue to provide counsel in the future including Paul Rieckhoff, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and Jeff Underwood, President, Lakeshore Foundation.
Wins for Warriors also launched an online fundraising campaign through Crowdrise to raise more support for these programs through the end of the regular season. Fans are encouraged to support the cause by raising funds that will be matched by Justin. Incentives throughout the five week campaign include a chance to participate in an on-field event prior to a game during the 2014 season, receive a signed baseball, and the opportunity to watch a game from Justin’s private suite in 2014. Go to http://www.justinverlander.com for more information.