With the start of the new school year, many high school seniors are taking those first steps towards college. Between attending SAT prep classes, taking the actual SAT, making college visits and doing general schoolwork, many are also thinking about the looming stress of financial aid.
And while college is hard enough to afford for most families, affordability is an even bigger problem for the children of deceased or wounded veterans. As of January 2014, 85 percent of the more than 1.4 million children of deceased or wounded veterans weren’t eligible for federal financial assistance.
That’s where Folds of Honor steps in. Since 2007, this nonprofit has been offering scholarships to children of disabled or deceased service members. All children in such families are guaranteed a scholarship — no matter the number or cost.
This all started back when Major Dan Rooney attended the funeral of one of his fellow servicemen, Corporal Brock Burkin. As the family received the body of Burkin, Rooney saw their grief and suffering, along with a void that needed to be filled. So, in between his second and third tours in Iraq, he started Folds of Honor, with Burkin’s son, Jacob, as the first recipient.
The organization has only grown from there. In its seven years of existence, Folds of Honor has granted 7,500 scholarships. In 2014 alone, 2,050 awards totaling $10 million were given.
In addition to being a former F-16 pilot with the Oklahoma Air National Guard, Rooney is also a PGA professional and USGA member. Due to these connections, Folds of Honor tees off across the country to fundraise. Thanks to a partnership with the PGA and USGA, an annual Patriots Golf Day tournament is held every year.
Throughout Labor Day weekend, golfers can add an extra dollar to their green fees that will be donated straight to the nonprofit. With 5,200 golf courses registered across the country, there are ample opportunities to participate.
And what a lucrative endeavor it is. In 2013, $5 million was raised for the organization during the weekend.
While Folds of Honor can’t replace the loss of these families, it can at least provide the children with an opportunity for a better life.
For Kylie Nemecek whose dreams of attending USC were threatened, Folds of Honor is making them a reality.
“Without it I probably wouldn’t be where I am today fulfilling my dream and forever I’ll be grateful for that,” Nemecek tells WLTX 19.