Last year, I ran a blog post interview of Meghan (Megs) Lederer, the Executive Director or Team Race for Veterans. At the time, R4V was just getting going, and I’ve witnessed tremendous growth over the past year as an R4V Ambassador. I thought it was high time to catch back up with Megs and share what’s been going on over the past year. It’s easy to forget about the harsh realities of NPOs – long hours, low pay, and often, not much concrete to show for your efforts. But as you will read below, Megs and team have a ton to show for the past year. Bravo to Megs, R4V and all who support!
Q: What has happened in the year since our last email interview?
Megs: GROWTH! Team R4V has more than tripled our monthly applicants since our last interview and established three programs:
- R4V’s Warrior Athlete Program – Provides wounded warriors/service members with the tools they need to be an athlete and compete once again. It is the cornerstone program of R4V, providing veterans with a one‐stop shop for all of their athletic needs. Examples include: Coaching/Mentoring, Funding for races/events, grants for adaptive sports equipment, etc.
- R4V’s Warrior CrossFit Program – CrossFit is the principal strengthening and conditioning program for most of the military branches, thus many veterans and service members feel a deep sense of connection to the sport. Team R4V was thrilled to launch its Warrior CrossFit Program in June of 2012, in which R4V provides: Ongoing support to CrossFit Walter Reed, sponsors a CrossFit Walter Reed Athlete of the Month, supports wounded veterans and service members pursuing their CrossFit coaching certification, provides scholarships for CrossFit gym memberships, and funded the Working Wounded Games.
- R4V’s Heroes & Family Healing Program – When veterans are wounded or sick, it’s not just the warrior who is affected, but the entire family unit; thus, the entire family often needs support. Through this program, Team R4V provides gym memberships for the entire family, club memberships, swimming memberships, etc. Our philosophy is that families that play together stay together.
Q: What kind of strides has R4V made in finding and serving veterans who could use your help?
Megs: Since last year was our first full year in operation, we did not do much outreach as we did not want to grow too fast, but that did not stop the growth! Beginning this year, we began with our outreach slowly, reaching out to VA Adaptive Sports Coordinators, contacts at the Paralympics, and published a few articles in magazines, but our most successful outreach to date has been word of mouth.
We will begin more robust outreach toward the end of 2013 to let more wounded veterans know about our programs now that we have our infrastructure set and feel ready to handle more applicants.
Q: How much does it cost?
Megs: The cost of supporting a wounded veteran and his/her family varies greatly from one veteran to the next. Some examples include:
- Family gym memberships and CrossFit gym memberships average between $75-$200/monthly
- Personalized coaching costs approximately $175/month
- Equipment can range anywhere from a $30 abs mat for CrossFit Walter Reed to $1,000+ adaptive cycling equipment
- CrossFit Coaching Certifications (which provides veterans with a steady source of income and a free membership to a CrossFit gym) cost $800
- Travel/competition entry fees vary greatly depending on the competition (entry costs between $20-$150) and travel depends on if the veteran needs/wants a family member there for support, if the veteran needs to fly or drive, if the veteran needs to ship equipment, etc.
Team R4V works with each veteran through the application process to cater programs/services to his/her needs and wants. It is very individualized, so the costs from one grantee to the next can vary greatly.
Q: You’re a new non-profit – what have been the challenges of establishing R4V and what have you learned as an ED over the past year?
Megs: I have learned a lot about the nonprofit world and also about myself through this journey. Starting a nonprofit is no easy task. You rely heavily on the generosity of others both financially and for their expertise and time. You have to ensure folks that you are not only going to use the resources bestowed to your organization in a prudent manner, but also that their time/money IS going to make a DIFFERENCE. After all, this is why we give, right? This is difficult to do right out of the gate when you literally have no success stories to share. However, after you get those first couple of success stories and people hear/read about the impact that their time/money is making, you gain momentum!
On a personal note, I have had to learn the beauty of boundaries. As an ED (and the only employee of Team R4V who works from home), I can work 80 hours a week and still feel like the job is not done. This is very difficult for someone who is not only incredibly passionate about the cause, but also is Type A. I am still working on those boundaries, but I am getting there.
I’ve always believed people are generally good hearted, but I have experienced incredible acts of generosity time and time again since the founding of R4V. Since the media often inundates society with the more desolate and hopeless stories about mankind, it is easy to become cynical. On a daily basis, this job renews my sense of the goodness of mankind.
Q: What can we expect to see out of R4V in the future?
Megs: More of the same: Growth and expansion while staying lean and changing lives. Our goal is to become a highly effective and efficient nonprofit. This means keeping overhead costs low and relying heavily on volunteers and “ambassadors” as we continue to serve additional veterans and their families. I expect 2014 will be a booming year for R4V. We are ready and excited to continue giving back to our nation’s heroes!