[media-credit name=”Gary Buchanan” align=”alignright” width=”212″][/media-credit]Ray Evernham, ESPN analyst for NASCAR, owner of East Lincoln Speedway, and two-time Daytona 500 champ as crew chief for Jeff Gordon, was on a mission at Dover International Speedway this weekend.
Evernham was putting his boots on as part of the Boot Campaign to raise awareness and funds for wounded warriors and troops as they return home.
“I was walking into the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the race when we were there in May and saw a young soldier named Johnny ‘Joey’ Jones,” Evernham said
“The guy was fantastically ripped and looked like the model soldier.”
“He was missing both of his legs,” Evernham continued. “He was wearing a T-shirt that said, ‘Ask Me About My Boots.’
“I walked up to him and asked him about his boots and he told me about a campaign to try to get interest in buying boots to close the gap of the American society and those fighting the wars right now by raising money by selling these boots for things like prosthetics and other needs,” Evernham said. “When they come home, they’re kind of forgotten about.”
“I was so moved by speaking to this young man that I set up a meeting to find out more about it,” Evernham continued. “And I was honored to meet another young man who was a decorated war hero call Sean Parnell, who wrote a book entitled ‘Outlaw Platoon.’
“It’s an incredible book,” Evernham said. “I’ve been through challenging times in my life but there were times reading that book that I had to put it down because it was so emotional.”
“What our warriors are doing over there and making sacrifices overseas so that doesn’t come to our shores is amazing,” Evernham continued. “And when they come home, we really need to support them.”
“So, I’m honored to be part of this program and I’m getting my boots on to help support this program,” Evernham said. “The services are unbelievably needed for the guys and gals coming home.”
“This is not just a news story,” Evernham continued. “These are young people who have made huge sacrifices and they need our help.”
The Boot Campaign is a 501(c) 3 non-profit military appreciation and veteran awareness campaign based in Texas. The charity was started in 2009 by a group of women who call themselves ‘Boot Girls’.
“Those of us, we call ourselves ‘Boot Girls’, and on behalf of the ‘Boot Girls’ we are so invigorated by the support and passion for giving back to the troops,” Meghan McDermott, marketing director of the Boot Campaign, said. “Ray has answered the call and joins Kasey Kahne and a list of other celebrities such as ‘The Rock’ Johnson, the Oak Ridge Boys, Troy Aikman and Dolly Parton among others.”
“Without their support, we couldn’t reach the public,” McDermott continued. “Our motto is ‘When They Come Back, We Give Back.’
The Boot Campaign supports a variety of programs, including urgent family assistance and supports two charity partners, the Armed Forces Foundation and the Marine Recovery Fund. The charity also provides housing for injured and homeless veterans through partnering with the Military Warriors Support Foundation.
One of the most unique programs of the Boot Campaign is the partnership with Wounded Wear, providing free clothing and clothing modifications for wounded warriors with prosthetics or other medical devices.
The Boot Campaign not only supports the troops themselves, but also the families of the fallen through two programs, Bratpack 11 and Special Ops Survivors. Bratpack 11, designed by 14 year old Boot Girl Kenzie, helps grant wishes and dreams of children whose parents have been killed in service. Special Ops Survivors is the sole organization helping surviving spouses of the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marine Corps Special Operations personnel killed in service since September 11th, 2001.
“There are currently 1.4 million Americans, less than 1% of our population, that serve our country,” McDermott said. “Just like them, we can lace up our boots as a simple sign of support and walking a mile in their shoes.”
“Our goal is simply to have 1.4 million Americans in a pair of boots to represent those who represent their country,” McDermott continued. “By year’s end, we will have raised close to $2 million for our program to do everything from mortgage free housing to wellness retreats to adaptive clothing for prosthetics.”
“We actually also support our survivors, spouses and their families, because they cannot be forgotten,” McDermott said. “Ray’s official boot photo will be featured nationally on Bootcampaign.com starting Monday, October 1st.”
For more information, visit www.BootCampaign.com.