In 2005, the father of an injured Marine introduced some local businessmen to staff members at the busiest military hospitals in Washington, DC. That very day, as they were learning which needs were not being met, they had a chance to help a stressed-out mother.
She was far from home after rushing to be by the side of her son, who’d been wounded and medevaced out of the combat zone. She had nowhere to stay, so they made a reservation for her at a nearby hotel and paid for it. Then they found out that the hotel shuttle wasn’t available at the odd hours when she needed to get to and from the hospital. So they got her a rental car and paid for that, too. Having seen the need firsthand, those businessmen joined with others to launch the Yellow Ribbon Fund.
Founded to serve the injured coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, YRF also recognized the importance of keeping the family together during the critical recuperation phase. The first programs provided free hotel rooms and apartments for visiting family members, free rental cars, and free cab rides to just about anywhere in the Washington, DC, area. They’re still among YRF’s most popular services.
In 2008, YRF built a large brick patio behind the Mologne House, where family members and outpatients lived at the old Walter Reed Army Medical Center. After the ribbon-cutting by then-Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, the patio became a gathering place for injured service members and their families, with four gas grills, two fireplaces, and tables and chairs. YRF also installed a gazebo near a fish pond, creating a quiet place for peaceful retreat, and a playground for the children of the injured.
Also in 2008, the first annual Yellow Ribbon Fund/Army Navy Country Club Golf Classic for Injured Service Members teed off at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. The unique format included foursomes of three donors plus one injured service member; more than two dozen injured troops play in the fundraising tournament each year.
Later that year, YRF broke new ground with its innovative Family Caregiver Program. While enabling family members to be with their injured loved one helped in the recovery process, it became apparent that the caregivers themselves needed more support during such a difficult time. Starting with therapeutic massages for the caregivers, the program grew to include many forms of support for the whole family — YRF is still one of the only organizations with activities for children.
In 2009, YRF’s first Gala was held at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md. It was a huge fundraising success, and the event has continued to grow at other area venues.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down, YRF expanded its focus to the long-term needs of our nation’s injured veterans. In 2011, YRF’s Ambassador Program boosted the effort to recruit volunteers around the country, who help the injured rebuild their lives after they return to their hometowns.
In addition, YRF and a corps of military veterans now working on Wall Street initiated Volunteer Lawyers for Veterans. This dedicated group of expert volunteers provides free legal service and guidance to veterans.
During the merger and move of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital, YRF was invited to serve as one of only four go-to service providers. The others were the Red Cross, USO, and Operation Homefront, all much larger charities. We’re in good company!
Since the hospital merger, YRF has installed a playground at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. It’s right next to Building 62, where the injured live with their families during outpatient treatment. The new Walter Reed was also missing an outdoor gathering area, so YRF constructed a patio with barbecue grills as well.
Today, the Yellow Ribbon Fund continues to provide practical support to injured service members and their families while they’re at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, and after they return to their hometowns. Since our beginning, more than 80 cents of every dollar spent has gone directly to programs and services, thanks in part to our small staff and a volunteer force that has grown to more than 1,300.
YRF has enjoyed support from celebrities such as comedian Stephen Colbert, pop legend Stevie Nicks, and journalism icons Bob Schieffer and Bob Woodward. Recognition of YRF’s efforts has come from:
Washingtonian Magazine: "One of the best charities in Washington, DC.” (December 2008)
Catalogue for Philanthropy: "Among the best small charities in the Washington, DC, region.” (2009-2010 & 2013-2014)
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce: Dick Price Community Service Award (2012)