Theta Chi Fraternity Raises Thousands for USO at G.I. Theta Chi Events

The brothers of Theta Chi — Iota Theta Chapter at the University of Central Florida pose at their 2015 G.I. Theta Chi event.

The brothers of Theta Chi — Iota Theta Chapter at the University of Central Florida pose at their 2015 G.I. Theta Chi event.

For Theta Chi Fraternity, partnering with the USO was an easy decision.

The fraternity, which has military roots dating back to its founding, has a history of supporting military nonprofits. After years of backing organizations that primarily serve wounded, ill and injured troops and veterans, Theta Chi expanded its philanthropic efforts in 2013 to support the larger military community.

“By supporting the USO, Theta Chi not only honors its creed, but also its storied military roots,” Theta Chi Executive Director Mike Mayer said.

G.I Theta Chi participants pose at the University of Central Florida in 2015.

G.I Theta Chi participants pose at the University of Central Florida in 2015.

Since the partnership began two years ago, Theta Chi has raised over $43,102 to benefit the USO.

“The members of Theta Chi have already made an impact to the USO by hosting events that both bring monetary benefit as well as raising awareness in the community,” USO Regional Development Manager Kyndele Cooke said at Theta Chi’s 2014 National Convention.

The USO also partners with the Greek organizations Delta Kappa Epsilon and Phi Gamma Delta.

Rooted in the Military Community

Theta Chi’s connection with the military dates back to its founding in at Norwich University in 1856. That year, two cadets attending Norwich — the oldest private military college in the country — created the Theta Chi Society, which eventually became Theta Chi fraternity.

Many of the organization’s first members, who were also military cadets at Norwich, had to leave their studies to fight in the Civil War. Several other Theta Chi brothers throughout history have served in the military, including a handful who are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

G.I. Theta Chi participants paddle a canoe at the University of Central Florida.

G.I. Theta Chi participants paddle a canoe at the University of Central Florida.

“Being a military-based fraternity, we would sometimes recruit guys who are coming back from the service to go to college,” Heard said. “We had two Marines in our [Theta Chi — Iota Theta Chapter at the University of Central Florida] in the past four years.”

Creating G.I. Theta Chi

Before the fraternity’s official partnership with the USO began, several Theta Chi chapters held “G.I. Theta Chi” philanthropy events to raise money for other military nonprofits. These “G.I. Theta Chi” events, which originated at the Theta Chi — Iota Theta Chapter at the University of Central Florida, now benefit the USO.

“Just a couple years ago we decided to start something that would set us apart on campus and nationally as far as raising money for a good cause,”said Wylder Heard, the philanthropy chair at the University of Central Florida’s Theta Chi — Iota Theta Chapter. “What makes us come back to do it every single year is the fact that we’re raising money to help the troops.”

G.I. Theta Chi events vary from school to school. At the University of Central Florida, the fraternity holds a weeklong fundraising competition involving the entire campus. At the end of the week, Theta Chi leads a field day with military-themed activities. All students, regardless of Greek affiliation, are invited to participate in the week’s events.

“Everyone knows, ‘Oh, G.I. Theta Chi,'” Heard said. “‘I want to participate. I love the obstacle course. I love the cause. I love America.’

“I guess that’s one thing: Everyone can be a patriot [during G.I. Theta Chi].”

Chicago-Area Kids Raise $100 for USO at Afternoon Lemonade Stand

Marty, Jimmy and Nora McNaughton and their lemonade stand.

Marty, Jimmy and Nora McNaughton and their lemonade stand.

When Erin McNaughton’s three children told her they wanted to start a lemonade stand this summer — with the proceeds going towards the USO — it was a proud parenting moment.

“It was all their own,” McNaughton said. “[You feel like] you’re doing a good job as a parent when they come up with an idea that’s going to help others.”

It started one morning in August when the children, who have an aunt and uncle that serve in the military, decided out of the blue to create a roadside lemonade stand to raise money for the USO.

“They’re around the military atmosphere and they like it and they see [why the military is important],” McNaughton said.

After about an hour of sign drawing, lemonade making and organizing, the kids were out in front of their Chicago-area house ready for their first customer. McNaughton estimates between 20 to 30 people stopped by the stand to buy lemonade that afternoon, although the majority of customers paid much more than the 75-cent list price.

“They were handing over five dollars, 20 dollars,” McNaughton said. “We had a great turnout. It was so cute. ”

At the end of the day, the McNaughton children had raised roughly $100, which they hand-delivered to the USO of Illinois office in downtown Chicago.

“The creative initiative that these young patriots demonstrated is inspired,” USO of Illinois President and CEO Alison Ruble in an email. “Embracing the true meaning of Every Moment Counts, they have provided a poignant reminder of what it means to give back to those who serve our nation.”

Rachel Feinberg, who works as a marketing associate at the USO of Illinois, said the organization only gets a few community-based, spur-of-the-moment donations a year.

“It was awesome,” she said. “The kids looked like they had a great time and it was just great to see some of the younger generation taking on the USO and helping us out.”

Wawa Hoagie Day Kicks Off $700,000 Fundraising Campaign for the USO

PHILADELPHIA—Wawa chose America’s birthplace on Independence Day weekend to launch its most ambitious campaign yet to support the USO.

Celebrity chef and USO tour veteran Robert Irvine joined Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens and hundreds of service members, police officers, fire fighters and first responders as well as dozens of USO volunteers and Wawa associates to construct a 5-ton hoagie on Thursday. The meal – which equated to 23,000 individual sandwiches – was served for free at Independence Mall during the 23rd Annual Wawa Hoagie Day.

“There’s nothing more fulfilling to me in my life than cooking for our warriors and their families and making sure that they know that we love them,” said Irvine, who recently returned from a USO tour to Japan. “The USO is a huge part of that.”

The event, which featured a USO Letters from Home station and hoagie-building competitions between service branches and police and fire departments, marked the start of Wawa’s annual USO fundraising campaign. The campaign runs through August 30 and aims to raise $700,000. Wawa customers can to donate $1, $3 or $5 when making purchases, which will go directly to support USO programs for troops and their families.

“For July fourth there’s no other place you should be than Philadelphia,” said Joe Brooks, President and CEO of Liberty USO. “It’s a wonderful community. A community that knows and understands the service and sacrifice of our military and it’s a community that steps up in many ways, both in donations of their time and money to the USO.”

Epic Fundraiser: Jay Leno’s Muscle Car Raised $565,625 for the USO

Auction houses selling rare and expensive collector cars are usually teeming with excitement, but at Gooding & Company’s 2015 Scottsdale Auctions in Arizona this weekend, there was an extra layer of celebrity buzz when comedian Jay Leno rolled out his prized 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8—with all proceeds benefiting the USO.

Rare and exotic Ferraris sold for multiple millions, but the highlight of the auction was Leno’s Challenger. The crowd roared as bidders competed for the patriotic prize in the one of the most exciting bidding displays Gooding & Company has ever seen.

The bidding started at $50,000 and when the auctioneer finally dropped the hammer at $360,000—nearly 10 times the car’s blue-book value—USO President and CEO Dr. J.D. Crouch II, present at the event, was filled with pride. The entire auction house stood for applause. However, the giving wasn’t done. Nobody was prepared for what happened next.

“After the car sold, one of the men who lost the bid for Leno’s car stood up and offered an on-the-spot cash donation for the USO—he would match anyone’s donation up to $100,000,” said Crouch.

Paddles began flying and within moments, another man committed to donate the full $100,000. Additional donations kept rolling in to the tune of $5,625, which meant that thanks to Jay Leno and other generous supporters, the USO would receive a total of $565,625!

This isn’t the first time Leno has flexed his charity muscle for the troops. In previous years, he has dedicated his annual Love Ride to the USO, and just two months ago, after returning from entertaining troops on a USO tour in Afghanistan, he joined the TODAY show to “Shine A Light” on troops back home by gifting another of his Dodge Challengers directly to a wounded soldier.

“We’re overwhelmed by the response that we got from those who attended the auction,” said Crouch. “The funds raised here will go far to advance our goals of expanding our services to men and women in uniform.”

Are You a Rugged Maniac? Join Team USO

How far are you willing to go to support our troops? Would you leap over burning coals? Low-crawl through the mud under barbed wire? Traverse cargo netting, hop through a series of tires and navigate a balance beam over a pit?

If you want an opportunity to challenge your endurance and reach physical goals you never thought possible in support of troops and their families, then you should join Team USO this year for a Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race.

“We’re very excited about the good things we can accomplish together,” Rugged Races CEO Bradford Scudder said. “The USO’s mission aligns with that of Rugged Maniac by recognizing and supporting our troops and their families.”

Rugged Maniac – which has announced 22 events in 2013 and expects more than 200,000 participants – hopes to raise $1 million in support of the USO.

“It’s a realistic goal,” Scudder said. “If each of our participants donates $5, we’ll get there. And this is a wonderful cause, so of course there will be individuals who’ll go above and beyond that $5 donation.”

From boot camp to battlefield back home again, the USO is the only organization that always stands by the side of troops and their families. Team USO members are crucial to supporting that cause.

–Video and Story by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

At Home In Our Hearts

Today, as they do every day, our brave servicemen and women are going to extraordinary lengths to protect our freedoms and defend our way of life.

During this holiday season, I’m asking you to take a moment to thank our troops and honor their service.

Your At Home In Our Hearts donation will allow us to translate your heartfelt “thank you” into the vitally important programs and services that mean so much to our troops.

Click here to make your contribution to support of our troops. Make your At Home In Our Hearts donation to the USO today and we’ll send you an American flag as a token of our appreciation.

Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 11.35.53 AMI am immensely proud to be a part of an organization dedicated to being on the frontlines with our servicemen and women and standing side-by-side with our wounded troops recovering here at home.

As part of the At Home In Our Hearts campaign, the USO will provide our troops with free phone calls home, wounded warrior recovery care packages, mobile USO2GO kits that bring a touch of home to our troops serving in even the most remote outposts abroad.

So whether they’re serving on the frontlines or recovering here at home, you can let our troops know they’re always At Home In Our Hearts.

Make your year-end donation to the USO today and get your American flag.

I want to say “thank you” for all you have done and continue to do for our troops especially, particularly around the holidays. I can’t tell you how grateful they are to know supporters like you are standing by their side and supporting them. – Brigadier General John Pray, USAF (Ret.)