Folds of Honor honors the sacrifice of military members by providing their loved ones with access to education.
Kelli Campbell lost her husband, Marine Maj. Shawn Campbell, in a military helicopter crash in 2016. At the time, their children were 11, 9, 6, and 2. The family had to move out of their base home in Hawaii, losing connections built within the military community that Campbell was a part of for 15 years. Their lives changed overnight.
When the family temporarily moved into her parents' house, Campbell says she felt "set adrift, no longer able to make decisions for herself." She had always homeschooled their children in the Classical Christian method, but she was unable to continue without her husband as her homeschool partner.
(Military Families Magazine)
Placing her children in public school would require them to attend schools at several different locations. They would be thrown into new classes in the middle of the year when they had no prior experience attending school in a classroom. Then Campbell heard about Folds of Honor.
Folds of Honor helps Gold Star children like, the Campbells, find the education they need
"I was sitting on my parents' floor, surrounded by library books and all the kids. I was panicking about school and their future and wondering how to move forward. My mom walked in and had gotten a phone call from a Classical Christian school who was giving my children an opportunity to attend and just be in class. My friend who had connected us to the school found Folds of Honor, called them that day and made it possible for my kids to enroll. That was our first step into this new life. I was handed not just education, but a community," she said.
Folds of Honor was established in 2007 to support the education of children who lost a parent in military service. Lt. Col. Daniel Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot and a PGA golf pro, was traveling on a commercial flight when he observed the body of Army Cpl. Brock Bucklin being returned to his widow and son. Rooney and his wife Jackie were moved to help the Bucklin family, so they organized a golf tournament and raised $8,000. He then asked the PGA to invite golfers to contribute $1 on a round of golf during Labor Day weekend. In one weekend, they raised $1 million.
Last year, Folds of Honor awarded 4,500 scholarships to military families, providing $22 million in educational support.
Ben Leslie, Executive Vice President at Folds of Honor, says the organization has always remained focused on its mission of educational assistance.
"We believe it is our duty and honor to provide generational assistance for Gold Star children to go to private schools. A lot of families may struggle to find employment, or they may be stuck living in neighborhoods with lousy public schools. We believe in teaching people how to fish: If you give them an opportunity to learn, they will be able to teach their own kids and have new opportunities," Leslie said.
For the Campbell kids, Folds of Honor filled an important gap. Campbell says Folds of Honor gave her a piece of freedom after her husband's death.
"There is very little federal assistance for young children's education. As soon as my husband died, everyone talked to me about college scholarships for the kids. It was a great blessing, but I didn't need that yet, because I had a two-year-old in diapers," she said.
“Honor their sacrifice, educate their legacy”
Campbell, who now works for Folds of Honor, says it is equally important that the organization shares the names and stories of fallen service members.
"Their motto is, 'honor their sacrifice, educate their legacy.' They honor them by sharing their stories and saying their names. That is huge for these kids. It isn't easy to share, but I do it to help other families," she explained.
Campbell choked up as she shared her husband's legacy.
"Shawn loved people so well. The day he said goodbye to us, he prayed for our family, that we would love each other well. His favorite days were the ones when he interacted with younger Marines and was a leader to them," she said.
A portion of Red Gold ketchup sales to be given to Folds of Honor
Folds of Honor has partnered with the company Red Gold to support military families in a creative way. This year, a new red, white and blue ketchup bottle from Red Gold is on store shelves. Not only does this increase awareness of the Folds of Honor mission, but a portion of proceeds will be donated to the military family scholarship funds.
Leslie explains that it is a natural fit for both organizations.
"Red Gold is grown and made in America, as a 4th generation American company. Red Gold's commitment to helping and honoring our military is apparent. The bottle stands out on the shelves, and you can buy something that was made in America and supports military families."
Campbell hopes that the partnership will drive attention to the Folds of Honor mission and the service member stories they highlight. Even though the bottles and single-use packets will be sold nationwide in chains like Costco, Sam's Club, and Albertson's, Campbell is most excited that it will be stocked in commissaries, because military families know what the folded flag means.
"That folded flag has so much weight to it: they say it only weighs 2 pounds, but it feels like much more to carry. Red Gold is coming along and helping families carry that weight."