09 August, 2007

Valour-IT in San Antonio


Last weekend was the 2007 Soldiers' Angels Conference, and the highlight of the event for Angels was a party at the Brooke Army Medical Center's (BAMC's) Fisher Houses in which 78 Valour-IT laptops were distributed to wounded Soldiers and Marines. This brings Valour-IT's total laptop distributions to over 1200 in two years, and an additional 22 laptops are on standby at BAMC.

Valour-IT was able to distribute the 78 laptops at once thanks to a $150,000 grant [warning, PDF file] from the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAF), which is by far the largest donation Valour-IT has ever received. The money must be used exclusively in Texas, but that will free up other donations to be applied to locations around the country. SAAF has five million dollars to distribute and this was the first round of grants. Valour-IT received the largest grant of this round (about $80,000 of it remains at this time).

In related news, Best Buy has been working with Valour-IT for some time now, helping us to stretch our donated bucks. They negotiate with their major suppliers to get the best dealer incentives and bulk rates available at any given time and pass that savings directly on to us. This has enabled Valour-IT to distribute relatively high-end laptops to deserving veterans for under $600 each. So, representatives from Circuit City were on-hand at the party to coordinate distribution, and even set up decorations beforehand.

It was quite an impressive sight to see so many laptop boxes stacked up together, and so very gratifying to watch wounded soldiers pulling up in their wheelchairs with smiles on their faces and computer boxes in their laps. At BAMC, Valour-IT is blessed to work hand-in-glove with hospital caseworkers who identify a patient's need for a laptop and refer the info to us. This means that patients are less likely to "fall through the cracks," and are usually quickly identified if they are in need. In fact, the caseworkers themselves distributed the laptops.

The party was also an impressive demonstration of San Antonio citizens' support for their local military personnel. Hundreds of wounded warriors and family members enjoyed food from a caterer who donated all edibles and services, a country music band who had things rocking, beautiful Mariachis, a local rap group, and even a balloon figurine artist. The Soldiers' Angels in attendance distributed giftcards, phonecards, and SA coins while they spent time getting to know everyone, and a good time seemed to be had by all.

On a personal note, it was so gratifying to see how well Valour-IT is working at BAMC. Not all medical facilities are as supportive of or integrated into Valour-IT's efforts, so it's nice to know that's not an issue at BAMC.

UPDATE: I have been extremely remiss in not giving credit where credit is due. Valour-IT has begun to blossom since last November's fundraiser, due to the efforts of a number of wonderful people. After November, Soldiers' Angels leadership stepped up to give Valour-IT their strongest-possible financial and administrative backing. Lynette Frascella (SA's Director of Wounded Support) and LTC(ret) Jim Riley (SA's Medical and Wounded Liasion and Valour-IT's logistics leader) make Valour-IT happen on a daily basis. Jim is also the man responsible for Best Buy's support and our seamless integration at BAMC. Additionally, SA's new Grants Team secured the $150,000 grant. These people are all responsible for Valour-IT having moved from a shoestring operation to something with lasting power and the ability to begin to meet the continuing need in this arena. They deserve BIGTIME kudos.

[Coming up in another post: some of the wounded warriors we met: amazing characters, including a very young and heroic Humvee driver. I also hope to have some pictures to share.]