On April 8th in Winston-Salem, NC Active Heroes saw another successful Stand at Attention competition, a unique Active Heroes event that raises awareness of the struggles our U.S. veterans from every branch face. The event which is typically held in a public place, like a shopping mall, has a representative from each branch of the U.S. military. Each representative had a donation bucket and the branch to raise the most money wins the competition, all while raising money for Active Heroes. In Winston-Salem the Navy prevailed as the winning branch under Navy representative Megan Connor. Megan was a second year stand volunteer who stood just two weeks before her wedding. The event was conceived in 2011 in Raleigh, NC by a proud Navy mom, Cathy Bordeaux. Cathy and Active Heroes founder Troy Yocum decided to create an event that played off the friendly banter between branches and thus The Stand at Attention Competition was born. Cathy recalls that first competition, “We had no idea what to expect or how long the members would stand. They began standing at 10:00 am and stood until we called the end of the competition at 7:00 pm!”
Each event takes months of planning and Cathy typically relies heavily on a team leader to help with the event. The team leader is typically from the area the competition is being held and helps to find volunteers to stand at the event among other planning duties. The team leader at the recent Winston-Salem event was Toni Pridgen. Toni found herself in a bit of a pickle when the Marine who was planning to stand was called to duty just before the event leaving his place vacant. A young man in passing by asked if he could stand in the vacant spot and stood for over 6 hours! Team Leaders are always looking for new activities to have at the competition to keep the interest of the volunteers and people passing by as well. Toni was particularly moved by Winston-Salem local, John Wesley Carpenter, who sang a song he wrote for Vietnam Veterans.
Cathy notes that each event is different than the one before depending on what that events team leader comes up with and how involved the community gets in the event. But one thing they all have in common is the same purpose, to raise money to help veterans, to raise awareness about veteran suicide, and to build camaraderie among the branches. Each event and each community brings heartfelt reactions from the participants and the spectators alike. To Cathy the event never gets old, “Most are in awe of the event! We have every reaction and emotion you can imagine from kids taking selfies with the volunteers to older Veterans coming up and saluting these young Veterans. A mom who has a child on deployment will come up with tears in her eyes as she drops money in her bucket and thanks a member standing there. We’ve had family members of suicide victims that didn’t know we were going to be at the mall that day and just happened on our event and then just couldn’t bear to leave because what we were doing meant so much to them. There is never a way to prepare your volunteers or Team Leaders for all the emotions they will feel throughout the day! The volunteers that stay for the entire day walk away exhausted but their hearts are full. Many of the participants come back year after year to volunteer. This truly is a unique event!” If you are interested in being a Team Leader and hosting a Stand at Attention Competition in your city, contact Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information.