In the month since the First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced the 20 finalists as part of the Joining Forces Community Challenge, the website has attracted nearly 2,800 followers, and over 33,000 votes have been cast in support of the People’s Choice nomination. The Joining Forces Community Challenge is a nationwide effort to recognize and celebrate citizens, communities, and organizations that have a genuine and deep desire to be of service to our veterans and military families.
Since the Challenge was launched in July, more than 300 submissions were received, from which 20 finalists were selected in January 2012. Each of the 20 finalists has a unique and inspiring story to tell, which is currently being profiled on the Joining Forces Community Challenge Website. We would like to encourage each and every one of you to participate by visiting the website and voting for your favorite submission. On March 16th, the submission with the most votes will be declared the People’s Choice Winner.
Currently, the top three submissions with the most votes are as follows:
1. Our Family for Families First Foundation, East Greenwich, RI
Our Family for Families First Foundation is committed to supporting military family members in the pursuit of higher education and establishing a tradition of community service. The Foundation has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships and grants to the children and spouses of military families since 2006 (more than 200 students) and initiated more than 40 targeted outreach programs in towns and cities surrounding military installations.
2. Defending the Blue Line, Hastings, MN
Defending the Blue Line works to ensure that children of military members have access to participate in hockey through free equipment, hockey camps, special events, and financial assistance toward association fees or other hockey-related costs. Founded by two Minnesota National Guard members in 2009, more than $500,000 has benefited military families across the United States.
3. Hearts Apart, Wilmington, NC
Hearts Apart provides soon-to-be deployed service members with a professional photo session with their spouses and children to keep families connected while military families are separated. Photographs are waterproof and printed on durable cards that fit in a uniform pocket.
In addition to the People’s Choice Winner, five additional winners will be chosen with input from a panel of distinguished judges including Tom Brokaw, J.R. Martinez, Sloan Gibson, Mayor Julian Castro, and Deanie Dempsey. The First Lady and Dr. Biden will announce those winners and honor all 20 finalists at the White House later this spring.
The Joining Forces team congratulates and thanks everyone who entered, and their volunteers and supporters, for their service to our troops and their families. There are three weeks left to vote, so please join us in congratulating the finalists, and visit the Joining Forces Community Challenge website to vote for your favorite submission.
Darienne Page is Assistant Director in the Office of Public Engagement and lead for Veterans, Wounded Warrior and Military Family Outreach