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Hundreds of colleges and universities have rallied behind injured service members to assist them on their journey to recovery. To complement the existing activations taking place on campuses across the country, numerous conferences stepped up and created once in a lifetime experiences for our nation's heroes. These events honor and empower injured service members during their transition back to civilian life.

More than 400 students from 10 schools traveled to Annapolis, Md. to compete in the 2015 Patriot League Indoor Track and Field Championship. Among those who made the trip to see the fierce competition at the U.S. Naval Academy was injured service member Chyrece Campbell. The crowd roared with applause during the award ceremony as Chyrece presented each beaming champion with their trophies and medals.

Upon arrival at the championship, Chryece and her family toured the facility and enjoyed hospitality access. Just after taking the stage to take part in the awards presentation, Chyrece, who currently serves in the Air Force, was recognized for her service and the audience rose to their feet in deep appreciation.

Several states away, a mix of cheers and loud splashes filled Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium during the 2015 Patriot League Swimming and Diving Championship. The conference treated Brendon Smith and his family to an experience including a meet and greet with participating teams, a facility tour, and hospitality. During intermission, Brendon, who served in the Marine Corps until 2003, stood at the center of the aquatic center with his family as the crowd showed their overwhelming support. At the conclusion of the touching moment of recognition, Brendon's wife wiped a tear from her eye.

"The Patriot League and our member schools are honored to be able to recognize our veterans and Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) at our conference championships. The student-athletes, coaches, and spectators respect the dedication and commitment of our veterans, and we are excited that we were able to acknowledge them at two of our showcase events. We look forward to additional opportunities to host injured service members at future Patriot League championships," said Richard Wanninger, senior associate executive director at the Patriot League.

Each of these conference-level experiences were created to aid in the healing process and left an everlasting imprint on those who attended.

Inviting an injured service member to take part in conference tournaments and championships can make a significant impact on their recovery. Contact Amara Betoney at amara@themeridiangroup.com or Sarah Taylor at saraht@themeridiangroup.com to learn more!

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For many veterans, one of the hardest battles is the transition back into civilian life after leaving the military. Injured service members often feel lost and alone without the camaraderie they shared with their brothers and sisters in arms. Readjusting to the world they left behind to serve their country can be difficult. By integrating veterans into game day activities, colleges and universities have made hundreds of Wounded Warrior Project® injured service members a part of their team and furthered their journey to recovery.

American University frequently invites veterans to their events and recently hosted an injured service member at their wrestling match against the University of Oklahoma. Just before the start of the match, all eyes locked on American's honorary captain, Baren Berg, who stood tall at the center of the mat. Between the captains of the two universities, Baren shook hands with both young men and with a flick of his thumb, sent a coin flying through the air. Once it dropped to the mat, he declared the winner of the toss as the crowd cheered him on.

Baren returned to the mat to be recognized for his service during a halftime ceremony, greeted by American University Director of Athletics and Recreation, Brigadier General William Walker, United States Air Force, Retired. Fans and spectators showed their appreciation once again as the two men shared a special moment bonded by their military service.

Create an event that empowers a Wounded Warrior Project® injured service member and makes a difference in their life. Contact Amara Betoney at amara@themeridiangroup.com or Sarah Taylor at saraht@themeridiangroup.com to learn more!

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Basketball season is in full swing and as teams look ahead to March Madness, each game becomes more important. Players are laser-focused on helping their team win and improving their statistics, but it's not just the young men and women on the court who are racking up assists. Sometimes injured service members need a helping hand as they struggle to adjust to life outside of the military. Athletics departments are continuing to host Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) veterans at their events, providing them an "assist" as they try to regain a sense of normalcy.

The sound of feet stomping thundered through Statesmen Hall as fans packed the seats and awaited the arrival of the Richard Bland College Statesmen on the court. Prior to tip-off, an injured service member was welcomed onto the polished wood and stood center court while being recognized for their service. While the crowd paid their respects to the flag during the singing of The Star Spangled Banner, they also showed their appreciation to the brave men and women who have fought for their country in part by cheers and salutes.

After the team secured the win in a nail-biter match up, the WWP wounded veteran and their guests joined the Richard Bland players and coaches for a post-game reception. While enjoying refreshments provided by the school, the group engaged with the team. Though the Statesmen had pulled off a great victory, the real hero was the injured service member whose sacrifices were honored that night.

Engage with wounded veterans and plan an event to honor them. Contact Amara Betoney at amara@themeridiangroup.com or Sarah Taylor at saraht@themeridiangroup.com to learn more!

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Making Veterans Part of Your Team

When veterans are transitioning back into civilian life after years of service, they sometimes struggle to identify with those around them and feel isolated, unable to connect at home. To assist the brave men and women who fought for our country, colleges and universities across the nation are inviting Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) injured veterans to be a part of their team for a day.

While the cool winds of a New York fall blew through the air, thousands of fans watched as the Syracuse University football team burst through the tunnel. Cleats pounded the ground and energy coursed through the players' bodies as they took the field, accompanied by a new teammate, a WWP veteran. As the applause roared and echoed throughout the stadium, the injured service member stood tall with the new companions he'd met only just before. Prior to the game, approximately 200 WWP veterans and guests were treated to a large group tailgate where they feasted upon a spread of food and beverages.

As the rest of the group headed to the stands, one veteran, who served as Syracuse's honorary teammate, made his way toward the locker room, entering the massive football complex, which features displays boasting Syracuse's greatest players, coaches, and wins. After the team erupted into the stadium, the crowd showed their appreciation in the form of cheers and whistles as the WWP veterans were recognized and the honorary teammate was presented with an autographed football. The injured service members left Carrier Field that day forever a part of the Syracuse team and family.

Empower veterans with an event that makes them a part of your team. Contact Amara Betoney atamara@themeridiangroup.comto learn more!

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Thank Our Veterans

Veterans Day is a time to honor those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Collegiate athletics departments are stepping up to the plate this month to celebrate our nation's heroes. Many universities and colleges are hosting military appreciation events in November. More than 50 of these events will empower Wounded Warrior Project® injured veterans, providing them with once-in-a-lifetime experiences created not only to honor them, but to also help ease their transition into civilian life.

Many schools are paying tribute to those who've sacrificed for our freedoms by recognizing veterans during military themed events. The American flag ruffled in the breeze while being carried onto the field by wounded service members and their families at Boston College's Military Appreciation Day game. The National Anthem echoed through the stadium as fans stood with hands over hearts to honor our country and the families on-field who've sacrificed for our freedoms.

The veterans and their families filled up on tasty tailgate treats before walking out onto the fresh-cut grass to enjoy a sideline view of the pregame action. Players whizzed by as the teams warmed up, coaches marched back and forth with whistles in hand, and in the center of the organized chaos, the service members took it all in. After the National Anthem, three veterans named as honorary captains looked on in excitement as the coin flipped through the air and landed in the referee's hand. Each honorary captain walked tall back to the sideline grinning ear-to-ear, relishing in that special moment.

Thank a veteran and create an event that shines a light on America's veterans. Contact Amara Betoney at amara@themeridiangroup.com to learn more!

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Empower Warriors

Many injured veterans undergoing the transition from military to civilian life face difficulties. Sometimes "home" can feel like a foreign country while trying to adjust to their physical and mental injuries. These same men and women, who showed great courage defending our freedom, often feel confused adjusting to their new normal. Across the nation, athletic departments are rising to the occasion to empower wounded veterans with special recognition.

Underneath the bright stadium lights, and a dark evening sky, time stood still for Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) wounded service member Hunter Alarcon. Fans adorned in scarlet were on their feet to express gratitude for his service and sacrifice during the "Heroes Among Us" promotion on Sept. 13, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson®. Hunter's face lit up on the video board as his name echoed from the speakers and the crowd, cheerleaders, team, and coaches erupted with an outpouring of support and appreciation.

"We all cherish the opportunity to recognize Wounded Warrior Project® veterans and we are grateful to our partners at Johnson & Johnson® for helping to make it possible," said Mitch Brooks, partner services coordinator at Rutgers IMG Sports Marketing, who works tirelessly to provide these experiences at every Rutgers home football game. "Everyone we've ever hosted has been absolutely wonderful and has been so excited to come! I truly love this program and what it does for our wounded service members."

Plan now to provide a once in a lifetime experience to empower those who have had their lives changed while fighting for our freedom. Contact Amara Betoney atamara@themeridiangroup.comto learn more!

Photo credit: Rutgers Athletics

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Thirteen years have passed since the Twin Towers crumbled in front of our nation's eyes. Today, many service members return to their communities changed from visible and invisible wounds incurred while protecting our freedom. These changes can make it difficult to readjust to life in the civilian world. Athletics programs offer unique ways to show appreciation for their sacrifice.

Crowds of red and white jumping up and down and a mascot with a hat that enforces the motto "Everything is bigger in Texas" are just a few of the sights Wounded Warrior Project® wounded service member, Brandon Pool, absorbed during Texas Tech's "Operation Giveback sponsored by the Overton Hotel" on Aug. 30. Meeting cheerleaders and holding the "Guns Up" Texas Tech victory sign from the sidelines created lasting memories. The campus-affiliated Overton Hotel provided a night's stay so he could rest easy the night before game day at Jones AT&T Stadium.

"This is Texas Tech, American heroes like Brandon are always welcome!" said Andy Rowdon, assistant athletic director for promotions and fan engagement, whose team was instrumental in creating a day of appreciation for Brandon.

Plan now to create a game day experience that empowers and aids in the successful transition of our service members. Contact Amara Betoney at amara@themeridiangroup.com to learn more!

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Each November 11, Veterans Day, we look to honor and thank all who serve in the United States Armed Forces.

On the 11th of each month, NACDA and the Wounded Warrior Project will partner to salute a wounded warrior, who's life has been impacted by an event held on one of our campuses.

If you have a desire to participate in this impactful program please contact Amara Betoney.

To learn more about Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), please visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org