Veterans Day provides an opportunity to recognize our nation’s heroes for their time in service. Collegiate athletics departments across the country have implemented this nod of appreciation into their year-round game day activations planning. Hundreds of events honoring Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) veterans are held each season, leaving a huge impression on injured service members as they work to cope with and understand their new normal.

With the Melbourne sun setting in the background, four WWP veterans entered Panther Stadium looking forward to an evening with other service members and their families. From their seats in the on-field VIP hospitality section provided by Florida Tech Athletics, they had a fantastic view of the gridiron. They engaged with one another, reflecting on similar experiences, as the players and football moved back and forth across the field.

During halftime, the injured service members took to the turf and made their way to the 50-yard line as a group. With their new brothers at their side, each veteran was recognized for their service as the crowd of fans showed their appreciation in the form of roaring applause and cheers. Following their halftime experience, a light dinner served as the backdrop to conversations between fellow service members, each of whom who had just been given another helpful push on their journey to recovery.

To learn more about inviting WWP veterans to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience at a collegiate sporting event, please contact Amara Betoney at or Sarah Taylor at


It was a beautiful Texas day. The sun was shining and the sound of rowdy fans filled the air of Founders Square. College football had made its highly anticipated return and the excitement was contagious on the set of ESPN College GameDay. Amongst the sea of signs and fans decked out in red and white in support of Alabama and Wisconsin was Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) injured service member Gary Starr. Thanks to Coca-Cola, Starr was treated to an experience he’ll never forget.

In 2002, Starr suffered a spinal cord injury after falling 25 feet from an operation tower and was medically discharged from the U.S. Army. Today, Starr continues to receive treatment as a result of his accident and struggles with anxiety and combat stress. As a huge college football fan, Starr was thrilled at the chance to attend College GameDay. He and his family were hosted by Coca-Cola, who provided VIP hospitality and premium seating in Section Zero. “It was a lot of fun. It’s great for veterans like myself to be able to go out in public and be recognized. It lets us know that we’re appreciated and that we haven’t been forgotten,” said Starr.

Starr’s time spent on set also allowed him to engage and reconnect with his family and offered him an opportunity to work through his fear of going into crowds. The icing on the cake was meeting hosts Desmond Howard, Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. “That was such a neat experience to take a picture with the show’s hosts. I really enjoy events like this which allow my family to get together and help to take some of my anxiety away.”

To learn more about inviting WWP veterans to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience at a collegiate sporting event, please contact Amara Betoney at or Sarah Taylor at


It’s been 14 years since the world watched in horror as the twin towers came crumbling down. The lives lost in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania that day have not been forgotten. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is working to ensure the men and women who volunteered to defend our freedom and protect our country aren’t forgotten either. When returning home and leaving the service, veterans often struggle to cope with the physical and mental wounds they’ve incurred while serving and often feel alone in their internal battle to find a new sense of normal.

To aid our nation’s heroes, many universities and conferences host veterans at sporting events and integrate them into game day activities for a truly special experience. Student-athletes, coaches, and administrators across the country are suiting up in an effort to give WWP service members the boost they need to continue their recoveries.

With the heat of the summer beaming down on them, a group of 16 veterans and guests eagerly entered the Big Ten Conference Football Kickoff Luncheon, an annual fan-favorite event held just before the start of the football season. The day kicked off with a fan fest where the attendees were able to meet and interact with all Big Ten head football coaches. As they feasted on plated lunches, the veterans engaged with one another while listening to live interviews given by the coaches. Before the luncheon concluded, each veteran was personally introduced and recognized for their service in front of the crowd of fans, coaches and student-athletes. Everyone in the ballroom rose to their feet in honor and appreciation of the sacrifices made by the veterans and their families.

Alberto Lopez, an outreach coordinator at WWP, said “I was talking with a veteran and the excitement on his face when he was about to meet his favorite football coach and team was priceless. After the meet and greet, another veteran and their guest told me how much these events help him to slowly integrate into community events to where he can ultimately be comfortable going out without the knowledge of knowing other veterans will be there.”

To learn more about inviting WWP veterans to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience at a collegiate sporting event, please contact Amara Betoney at or Sarah Taylor at


With college football season drawing near, athletics departments and fans are counting down the days to the first tailgate, the first burst of players onto the field, and the first kickoff of another glorious fall on the gridiron. However, for many of our nation's heroes, their outlook isn't as exciting. Many wounded veterans struggle to recover from injuries and memories that occurred on their "alive day", the day they survived a horrific experience on the battlefield. What these veterans are looking forward to is that first night without a nightmare, those first feelings of acceptance of their new way of life, and sometimes the first time leaving home in months or even years.

Today, tens of thousands of these service members, their families, and caregivers receive support from Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) through 20 free programs focused on engagement, mental health, physical wellness, and economic empowerment.  

Thanks to athletics departments across the country, many injured servicemen and women are receiving the encouragement and motivation only a team environment can provide. Sporting events can be an environment that is comforting and reminiscent of their time in service. An exceptional experience at a collegiate sporting event can give an injured service member the courage needed to take their next steps in adjusting to their new normal.

Here is a glimpse of the 2014-15 collegiate sports season and the numerical impact colleges and universities are making on WWP service members.:

  • 336 events held featuring unique experiences for injured service members
  • 1,417 WWP veterans honored
  • 3,030 caregivers, family members, and friends hosted

Looking ahead to 2015-16, more than 100 athletics programs ranging from SEC powerhouses to NJCAA teams have committed to hosting WWP service members at an event this season. No school or event is too small to make a difference in the life of an injured veteran.

To learn more about inviting WWP veterans to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience at a collegiate sporting event, please contact Amara Betoney at or Sarah Taylor at


Collegiate athletics programs have a unique ability to change an injured service member's life. Leaving the military behind can sometimes be devastating for Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) veterans and for many, a special experience at a collegiate sporting event could make a difference in their recovery.

Experiences are customized for each individual athletics department, team, and coaching staff. These events are a great way to enhance the game day atmosphere for fans and student-athletes alike, and remind the veterans being honored that they are not alone.

Here are five of the many ways you can include WWP service members in your game day activations. (Photo courtesy of LaSalle Athletics)

1. Provide Recognition at a Game. On the video board from the stands, on the court, or on the field -- no matter how it's done, recognition is a simple way to show veterans that their community supports them. (Photo courtesy of the Big West Conference)

2. Take Veterans on a Facility Tour. Another easy-to-manage method of including injured service members in game day is to take them behind-the-scenes of an athletics department's everyday activities. Seeing the locker room, press box, and training facilities is an exciting experience for fans! (Photo courtesy of Boston College Athletics)

3. Offer an Opportunity to Serve as an Honorary Captain. Being a leader again can inspire a veteran to push themselves even further during their transition back into civilian life. (Photo courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

4. Grant Exclusive Access. Sideline or courtside passes allowing an injured service member to observe warmups and pregame activities are a fantastic way to make our nation's heroes feel like they're part of a team again. (Photo courtesy of Syracuse Athletics)

5. Schedule a Meet and Greet. A chance to interact with players and coaches offers another opportunity to integrate a veteran into game day and provides a meaningful experience for the student-athletes and staff. (Photo courtesy of Florida Athletics)

The sky is the limit when it comes to planning an event to honor WWP service members! For additional ideas and to learn more about hosting veterans at your 2015-16 events, please contact Amara Betoney at or Sarah Taylor at

Returning to civilian life is often difficult for injured service members who are suffering from a physical injury or invisible wounds like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Receiving recognition and special experiences at athletic events inspires Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) veterans and can provide a life-changing turning point.

Please join us at the 2015 NACDA Convention to learn more about WWP and ways to support injured service members while meeting internal department objectives. From Monday, June 15 to Thursday, June 18, WWP staff will be located across the hall from registration. Onsite meetings provide opportunities to collaborate on ways schools can incorporate WWP veterans, caregivers and families into game day activations for 2015-16 events.

Past successful events have included:

  • A coin toss, on-field recognition, serving as an honorary coach or team captain, or access to hospitality
  • Incorporating WWP honorees into school or team traditions
  • Including WWP families in a pre-game scrimmage or practice
  • Hosting a pre-/post-party for a large number of WWP families along with tickets to the game

To schedule a meeting time with WWP at Convention, please contact Amara Betoney at or Sarah Taylor at


It was sunny and 75 degrees as the Belmont Bruins took the field on May 2, ready to take on their opponent Murray State. A light breeze refreshed the players and their fans on an ideal day for a baseball game however, prior to the start of the game, the chatter around the ball park was not focused on the weather, but rather the brave men and women standing on the pitcher's mound. 

Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) injured service members were invited to throw out first pitches as a group. With their families by their side in support, the veterans received recognition for their service and dedication to their country. A line of players mirrored the line of service members, each of whom was assigned their own designated catcher for the simultaneous ceremonial first pitches. One by one, the balls began to launch across the field, many of the veterans opting to let their children enjoy the thrill of having a Bruins player on the receiving end of their pitch. The crowd held their applause until the last ball was caught and then erupted in appreciation for the sacrifices made by the veterans and their families.

Once off the field, the families were treated to Belmont swag bags and complimentary concessions. They snacked on hot dogs and popcorn as the Bruins engaged their opponents in a nail-biter that finished with two runs in the ninth to secure the win for the home team! Before basking in the glory of their final-hour walk-off victory, the players took time to engage with each of the veterans and their families during a post-game meet and greet, showing that the true heroes of the day were the WWP injured service members.

Level the playing field for an injured service member transitioning back into civilian life by creating an experience that can make a huge difference in their recovery. Contact Amara Betoney at or Sarah Taylor at to learn more!


Basketball season may be over, but the days leading up to the annual tournament were jam-packed with experiences that will stick with our nation's heroes and their families forever. Before the brackets were filled out, and subsequently busted, athletic conferences across the country held tournaments of their own and included Wounded Warrior Project® injured service members in their activations.

Sneakers squeaked constantly from the back and forth shuffle of the players during the Western Athletic Conference's (WAC) Men's and Women's Championship games on March 14. The crowd roared with a mixture of cheers and applause for the teams playing in the final games. During halftime, the sounds that filled Orleans Arena quickly shifted to a collective chant as the audience belted out "U-S-A! U-S-A!" in unison as four injured service members were recognized at center court.

The veterans and their families relished the warm welcome of the fans as they were presented with WAC swag bags that included t-shirts, water bottles, WAC memorabilia and championship balls autographed by the coaches. With their family members beaming with pride by their sides, the injured service members raised their hands and waved to the crowd in appreciation.

Including injured service members and their families in game day activations empowers them on their journey toward healing and recovery. Contact Amara Betoney at or Sarah Taylor at to learn more!


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 or Sarah Taylor at to learn more!


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 or Sarah Taylor at to learn more!


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 or Sarah Taylor at to learn more!


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 at amara@themeridiangroup.comto learn more!


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 to learn more!


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


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 to learn more!


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