In 2008 my title at Overstock.com was Senior Vice President of Marketing. I was looking for a charitable organization our entire company could stand behind, something to make us feel
good. Don’t get me wrong, selling a billion dollars of merchandise at good deals felt good, but it can also get soulless. So, I began a search for our feel good. What were the criteria? An organization that does what it says it would do. One that didn’t have a structure that was heavy in overhead. It didn’t need to be big, but it needed to be humble. We reached out to many that you’ve heard of and some smaller ones, and for whatever reason, just couldn’t find the right fit. I decided to poll our company. We asked a series of questions to direct our search; has anyone in your immediate family have cancer? Do you have a disease focused charity that resonates most with you? Things like that. Overwhelmingly, we discovered that over 90% of our employees had a personal relationship with the military. Whether they had someone close who enlisted or a family member who had seen combat, it was the strongest thread we had in common. The search then moved to military organizations, and somehow a colleague Emily (who was assigned the hunt) found the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) www.woundedwarriorproject.org. They sent over their financials, and at that time .84 of every dollar was devoted to the wellbeing, reintegration and rehabilitation for our soldiers returning from our war. Things like providing the first social outing for someone who had been in combat or maybe lost limbs or had the invisible PTSD. They offered their family and caretakers therapy for those veterans who require additional or full-time care. They were doing amazing things to fully integrate returning vets into civilian lives.
Our partnership evolved to where every box that we shipped of Overstock merchandise in was branded with a WWP logo. We integrated fundraisers into our Merchant Conferences, let our employees volunteer for local events support WWP’s efforts, and more. One day I while I was at an Albertsons grocery store they were doing a juvenile diabetes fundraiser at check out. Do you remember those? You give a dollar and you write your name on a paper clover and hang on the wall? It was that kind of promotion…and it occurred to me, we can add a dollar at check out too! If we just add a check box for one dollar, perhaps we can raise money for WWP. The next day we started development and were accepting donations within a couple of weeks. We raised about 1,000 dollars a day, give or take a few. It continued on until I left the company, but it was one of my proudest contributions.
The quality of people I met through my advocacy and support of WWP, can never be explained in words. I’d never do them justice. However, I can promise you this; some of the best people you’ll ever meet have experienced horrific circumstances during the Iraqi war, and WWP helped them learn to live with it. To have met these Warriors and their families and become friends with them has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. They remind me to be humble and grateful. I think of them and their achievements whenever life is kicking my ass. It gives me perspective and strength. These are some fucking strong people, living heroes on so many levels.
One of the first people I met with WWP, was Dan Nevins. Dan is an amazing human who also served in the Iraqi war. He shares part of his story on this podcast, if I tried to tell you - I’d be typing for hours! Over the years, he has become one of my very best friends, someone I admire greatly and can’t live without. When we met, it was just three years since he began living his life as an amputee, having lost both legs in an IED explosion. He was emerging as a speaker within the WWP organization. Today 12 years later, Dan has put so many more accomplishments, with my favorite being, a Master Baptiste Yoga Teacher but that’s just scratching the surface. He’s one of the most interesting men in the world.
Who would’ve thought all those years ago, while looking for a charity to inspire employees I would find lifelong friend? I’ve spent a lot of time with Nevins over the years, we’ve traveled, partied and cried together. Yet having Lunch with Dan I was again inspired by his story, because when he shares it, it’s like it all happened yesterday. I admire how much he has endured and managed to be a 360-role model for anyone. I appreciate his friendship; I admire him deeply; I can tell him anything and he never judges me….ish; and more importantly he’s funny AF.
He proves all of this himself. Take a moment and listen. Be inspired by a Warrior.