What do you get when you combine the average Joe and Jane’s pride for America, a charitable spirit and the desire to help families of fallen soldiers? You get Patriot Range Day, the brainchild of the Folds of Honor Foundation, NRA Country and National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Patriot Range Day is an initiative of the Folds of Honor Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Major Dan Rooney, a former F-16 pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, to raise college funds for the children of American soldiers who have died or been severely wounded while serving their country. It takes place at ranges across the United States starting yesterday through this Sunday, Veteran’s Day (November 8-11).

Major Rooney was spurred to action after seeing a young boy’s father returning home in a casket nearly six years ago. Corporal Brock Bucklin left behind a young son named Jacob for whom a college education was uncertain, since about 87 percent of dependents left behind by servicemen and women do not qualify for educational assistance from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and other governmental programs. He began raising funds for those nearly one million dependents through an event he established called Patriot Golf Day, in which golfers donate money to be awarded as a post-secondary educational scholarship. The Foundation itself was established in 2007.

“Patriot Range Day is the evolution, if you will, of the concept of Patriot Golf Day,” Major Rooney said in a phone interview. “It’s about getting in front of lots of patriotic people of a benevolent nature and asking them to give a little bit…We’ve raised about $16 million from Patriot Golf Day. This year, over 5,000 golf courses opened up their doors and people gave donations as little as $1 and that really does add up.” Since 2007, the foundation has raised a total of $21 million and awarded more than 3,600 scholarships.

Partners and Sponsors

Patriot Range Day is being led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), NRA Country and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) with support from Outdoor Channel, Bushnell, North American Hunter, Budweiser, SoundGear and Academy of Country Music. Folds of Honor Foundation is organizing it in an attempt to expose more hunters to the foundation. That’s hard to do–most hunters are out hunting this time of year. But the one place they’ll congregate before the start of firearm season is the range.

“You never know who is going to walk in and where their heart is going to lie in relation to helping the families of our military dependents,” Major Rooney said.

The goal is not a financial one, but Major Rooney would like to get 1,000 ranges to register for the event. “It truly is grassroots and when people read this, they are making sure that they are the force of change and they make sure their local shooting range knows about this and is signed up.” This is just the first year of Patriot Range Day, although Folds of Honor has been organizing Patriot Golf Days since the beginning of the foundation.

This is just the second such event to raise scholarship money, but there are plenty more to come. Folds of Honor is working closely with the Bowlers Association of America to bring a “Patriot Bowling Day” to the 5,000 facilities the association runs. Already in the works is a Patriot Boating Day, projected to host its first fundraising events during next year’s Fourth of July at various marinas across the United States.

“The beauty of these patriot days is they are really for the people by the people,” Major Rooney said. “You don’t have to be a millionaire to make a donation. We are literally putting the fuel in our jet, if you will, at $5 or $10 at a time. So it’s a powerful concept and it just speaks to the exponential power of many people doing the right thing. Good Lord willing, we’ll continue to grow these opportunities.”

Still Grassroots but Growing

Since our last interview with Major Rooney about the Folds of Honor Foundation, the organization has continued to grow, having distributed scholarships to 4,000 recipients, representatives in all 50 states and new and ongoing partnerships with large organizations. Bushnell is a proud sponsor, while just recently Budweiser made their own contribution in the best way they know how–by selling beer. This past summer, Budweiser bottles were packaged in special red, white and blue colors with special funds being raised for Folds of Honor for every case sold. Between May to July, Budweiser raised $2.5 million to donate toward the effort.

Getting Involved

If you would like to get involved for Patriot Range Day this weekend, simply attend a range registered with Folds of Honor and donate there. If there is no range registered in your area, be the one to change that. Ranges can register right up until the start of the event.

Image courtesy of Folds of Honor

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