Our Top 5 Stories of 2021 - Bob Woodruff Foundation

Our Top 5 Stories of 2021

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As we reflect on 2021, we are awed by the incredible stories of resilience from our community. Through a continued global pandemic, defined by urgent issues from food insecurity to mental health, our Got Your 6 Network stepped up to support veterans and their families. We’re celebrating the successes – from new babies, to a whole new sport – and spotlighting ongoing initiatives that will continue to be important in the year to come.

Join us in looking back at our top stories of 2021:

VIVA | The Engert Family

Ashford Engert, Crystal Engert and Adaline Engert speak onstage during the 15th Annual Stand Up for Heroes benefit at Alice Tully Hall presented by Bob Woodruff Foundation and NY Comedy Festival on November 08, 2021 in New York City.

Pride can manifest in many forms. For Army veterans Crystal and Ash Engert, they are proud of their military service, their baby Addie, and of being an LGBTQ family. But it has been a long road to get here.

After they left the military, Crystal and Ash were ready for their next step together: having a child. This would require some planning and careful consideration.

“Right off the bat we knew we would have to consider IVF, IUI, or adoption,” Crystal said. “We knew it would never be as easy as it is for a cis couple.”

In their search for help, Crystal quickly found our Veterans In Vitro Initiative (VIVA). VIVA is a program of the Bob Woodruff Foundation which provides financial support and guidance for veterans with service-connected injuries who want to grow their families but don’t qualify for VA funding. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride, but with the support of VIVA, the Engerts were able to welcome Addie into the world!

“Without the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s grant, I don’t foresee us being able to have children.” – Ash Engert

Houston Food Bank | Using the Right Ingredients

image of forklift operator lifting boxes of donated food

Food is not a luxury; it is a necessity, and worrying about it only adds to the obstacles our veterans face.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF), Combined Arms, and Houston Food Bank (HFB), with funding from the Qatar Harvey Fund, are working to ensure veterans experiencing food insecurity know we have their backs.

“At the end of the day none of us can live if we can’t eat,” Lytrenda Moore, Innovation and Special Projects Supervisor at HFB told BWF.

“It is gut-wrenching to come back after service and not have the support you deserve. It should be a right,” Mayra Loera, Capacity and Operations Manager at HFB said of veterans facing food insecurity. 

Bob Woodruff Foundation has been proud to fight veteran food insecurity alongside organizations like Combined Arms and HFB. HFB’s Veteran Pantry Days are helping make sure veterans in the Houston area have access to nutritious food.

But the hope is that they won’t be doing this forever.

“We are trying to put ourselves out of business. If I see the same person six years later then I am missing the mark,” Loera explained.

Move United USA Wheelchair Football League

image of 2 men playing wheelchair football
Athletes compete in a USA Wheelchair Football League tournament

Toughness, athleticism, and teamwork. While these traits may be applicable to many professional sports leagues, they’re especially relevant to success in the USA Wheelchair Football League (USAWFL). Move United’s groundbreaking league was created with an NFL and Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community grant, as part of their Salute To Service partnership.

“Everyone was so excited to be participating, and I can’t thank BWF and the NFL enough for their support of this project,” Karalyn Stott, Program Manager and Chief Financial Officer at Move United told BWF after their first ever tournament.

In the military, service members are all operating on the same team. But veterans often miss this camaraderie once they exit service. Navy veteran Ryan Lindstrom is thriving again on his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wheelchair Football team.

“In the military, you’re on a team, it’s family, and you work hard together,” Lindstrom said as he explained what joining his new football team meant to him. “This is your brotherhood again, you have a support system again, it’s awesome.”

ASAP | The Best Medicine

group photo of ASAP participants

“Laugh as much as possible, always laugh. It’s the sweetest thing one can do for oneself and one’s fellow human beings.” –Maya Angelou

Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP), a Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) grantee, believes that the arts and comedy can be instrumental in helping veterans as they transition into civilian life.

Through funding from a BWF-NFL Healthy Lifestyles and Creating Community grant, ASAP was able to keep its programming operational during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ASAP’s Operation Improv, is helping promote stress relief, confidence, and social bonding. ASAP hosts weekly performances that offer veterans the opportunity to put their talents on display.

“I was able to find something within myself that I had not felt since before I joined the military… A feeling that awoke me and helped cure the hardest parts of my depression,” said U.S. Army veteran and Operation Improv alum Nicole Palmore.

Craig Newmark’s Craigstable Continues to Help Veterans Nationwide

Craigstable graphic of a recipient posing for a picture with a member of SSV

No one can accomplish the mission alone – our veterans know this better than most. That idea inspired Craig Newmark, BWF board member and founder of Craig Newmark Philanthropies, to gather a coalition of expert organizations to join him in his fight to end food insecurity in America. Craigstable, guided by the Bob Woodruff Foundation, includes DC Central Kitchen, FareStart, Feeding America, God’s Love We Deliver, and World Central Kitchen. Within this group, the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) is specifically focused on helping veterans and military families facing food insecurity. BWF’s Got Your 6 Network is on the ground helping feed veterans in communities from coast to coast.

One Got Your 6 partner, The Northern Virginia Veterans Association (NOVA), provides a wide range of services to veterans including food distribution. During Q2 of 2021, their Food Support Program served 84 individuals that included veterans, family, and caregivers.

“We are grateful that this grant funding was made possible through BWF by Craig Newmark Philanthropies,” Angela McConnell of NOVA said.