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TMHQ Q&A with Wounded Warrior Project Founder Al Giordano
Inspired by the events following 9/11, and officially founded in 2003, Wounded Warrior Project, Tough Mudder's official charity partner, began with the simple desire to provide comfort items to wounded service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Over the past decade, however, the organization has grown into a holistic rehabilitation initiative, assisting veterans in countless ways as they transition back into civilian life.
With more than 51,000 injured veterans enrolled in twenty programs and services, Tough Mudder is proud to continuously see a growing number of inspiring veterans running under the iconic black and white WWP flag at events across America.
Having recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, we caught up with Wounded Warrior Project Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Al Giordano, to talk about the effect Mudder Nation is having on wounded warriors nationwide.
WWP just recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. What are some of WWPs biggest accomplishments in that time span?
In less than ten years, the Traumatic Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) program has paid more than $817 million in benefits to eligible servicemembers and veterans. We've been able to ensure the immediate and long-term care needs of 250 of the most severely wounded are taken care of through a $30 million commitment to the Independence Program and Long-term Support Trust. Additionally, we've also been able to place thousands into meaningful employment through our Warriors to Work program, and we've encouraged thousands to live mentally and physically healthier lives through programs like Soldier Ride and Project Odyssey.
What is it about Tough Mudder that encouraged WWP to partner with Tough Mudder?
The partnership started when Tough Mudder's founder, Will Dean, approached WWP. He supported WWP, and it was clear from the beginning that the Tough Mudder brand was aligned with WWP's mission and vision. We shared common values and the desire to honor and empower wounded veterans. We knew that if we joined forces, we could do an even better job of helping injured service members.
What common values do WWP and Tough Mudder share?
The most important value WWP and Tough Mudder share is the appreciation of teamwork. Mudders work together to accomplish the difficult task of overcoming physical obstacles. For the warriors we serve, this symbolizes the life obstacles they now face due to their visible or invisible wounds of war. Teamwork on the Tough Mudder obstacle course further instills the notion that there is nothing wrong with relying on someone else to carry you when you need it. The WWP logo depicts one warrior carrying another. At WWP, Tough Mudder and in life, sometimes we're the one being carried and other times we're the one that needs carrying.
What sort of reaction do our wounded servicemen have after they complete a Tough Mudder event?
Tough Mudder events allow WWP to bring together a group of warriors to complete a challenging physical event built around camaraderie. For many of our alumni, preparing for and completing a Tough Mudder kick starts them on a road to a healthier life. For others, it allows them to once again be part of a cohesive unit and experience being part of a team. Here's what some actual WWP veterans have said about running a Tough Mudder:
- "I absolutely love the camaraderie which is experienced at each and every event."
- "This was my first Tough Mudder and will not be my last. Because of this event I now feel that I can challenge myself even more. A great event with great staff!"
- "Running Tough Mudder with WWP was the only thing that has been able to motivate me to get back into shape after being extremely out of shape for over 5 years."
There is nothing wrong with relying on someone else to carry you when you need it.
How much has Tough Mudder helped WWP raise since partnering in 2010?
The support Tough Mudder and all of Mudder Nation has shown for WWP is remarkable. To date, more than $6.5 million has been donated to WWP by Tough Mudder participants. We are extremely grateful to Tough Mudder and Mudder Nation for standing behind our nation's heroes.
Which other ways, besides driving donations, has Tough Mudder impacted the WWP community?
Tough Mudder provides WWP with a platform to reach more service members in need as well as everyday Americans looking for ways to help. Tough Mudder events also provide WWP with the opportunity to engage our warriors through the Physical Health and Wellness (PH&W) program. The event ultimately helps warriors lead physically and spiritually healthy lives. Being on course with other warriors and fellow Mudders encourages our warriors to lean on one another to overcome life obstacles.
What can the average Mudder do to support WWP?
There are several ways to support our nation's heroes through WWP. Mudders can choose to fundraise for WWP as they prepare for their next Tough Mudder event, spread the word about WWP via social media or honor a veteran by simply saying "thank you."