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What Being a Next MAKER Means to Me

What Being a Next MAKER Means to Me

What a remarkable privilege to be selected as a Next MAKER! I truly didn’t see this coming. The funny part is that the opportunity to follow my passion to support our returning warriors with invisible wounds happened five years earlier while serving for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Who knew that work would lead to a path where I could pay it forward!  
Everything was extraordinary from the time I was notified I was selected as a Next MAKER. Through the red carpet treatment I received in New York City to the wonderful celebration ceremony and grant opportunity — it was all quite thrilling. The thoughtfulness of the team members I met at AOL and Simple was like icing on the cake. They really made the experience a time to remember!
I have talked to two organizations that I will be connected with as I plan to utilize the generous grant. It really matters to me to have a plan and follow the outcomes of those I will be able to support. Part of the plan is to aid those Veterans who will be recipients of non-pharmaceutical tools in their PTS Challenges, to follow their progress and then, after 6 months, have them help me pay it forward to those they know who could also benefit. 
I will be working with Dr Mike Haynie, the Director of Institute for Veterans and Military Families, which is the first institute of its kind in the nation, leveraging the intellectual, programmatic and human capital resources of higher education in support of the post-service life course of the nation’s veterans and military families.
There are two programs within IVMF that I will focus on:
1.    Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) offers cutting edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans with disabilities resulting from their service to our country.
2.    Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (VWISE) enables women Veterans to find their passion and to learn the business-savvy skills to turn their ideas or businesses into growth ventures.
I am also going to work with Liz Mackey, who is the Program Director for the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF), which is a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program using the creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help Veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities.
It became apparent to me working closely with both IVMF and NVCAF for several years that they are thrilled to add a comprehensive wellness program to their curriculum. With the grant from Simple, I will be able to help ensure that their investment into the lives of these Veterans is supported with non-pharmaceutical tools attending to the signature wound of both past and presents wars – Post Traumatic Stress.  I will now be able to help in that arena!
Again, thank you for believing in me. I am deeply inspired. Thanks Next MAKERS Team, and I am eager to continue to support our Veterans with your amazing gift!