USOA Ms. Pennsylvania 2022 Brianne Houck, an Army veteran from Birdsboro, recently granted an injured veteran’s first wish for her nonprofit organization, American Hero Wishes.
“As the founder of this organization, I hope this wish provides reassurance that our wounded veterans will never be forgotten for what they have done for us and our country,” said Houck, president of the group.
“As a veteran myself, I will always support our brave men and women who serve and have served. For our wounded veterans, I hope that for every wish we grant, another veteran will feel appreciated, revered, and uplifted by our country for allowing us all to live in the land of the free – that their sacrifices have not. never been in vain,” she continued. .
In March, Houck founded American Hero Wishes to grant wishes to seriously injured veterans.
“The purpose of American Hero Wishes, as an established 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is to grant the wishes of wounded veterans who have been injured while serving our country in the ‘army,” Houck said. “I hope American Hero Wishes encourages and supports our wounded veterans and reaffirms how much they are appreciated and revered for their service and sacrifice.”
As American Hero Wishes builds its presence in the community and on social media, Houck said the organization is starting to see an increase in responses. In addition to a website, American Hero Wishes has a presence on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Submitted nominations are reviewed by the Board of Directors to determine their eligibility. Criteria for potential recipients include an honorable discharge from military service.
On October 28, Houck and his sister Chelsea Houck, a board member, granted the organization’s first wish for an injured veteran, providing a custom-built hangar.
“The joy of this surprise was nothing short of moving! More so, this veteran is also determined to give back,” Houck posted on Facebook that day.
She quoted British statesman Winston Churchill as saying, “We make a living by what we receive, but we make a living by what we give. She added, “If I can make a positive difference in the lives of others, like this veteran recipient and his wife, I feel like I’ll leave the world a little better than I came in.”
Houck warmly thanked board members Amanda Schumacher, Chelsea Houck, Sophia Cozzone, and Wendi Russo for their efforts and dedication in making this wish come true and expressed his gratitude to everyone who contributed to American Hero Wishes for fulfill this wish.
This wish was granted to veteran Adam Hartswick, who was a combat medic while deployed. Hartswick was injured in 2013 while coming to the aid of his comrades. Hartswick lost both legs and a forefinger.
American Hero Wishes received a nomination in April from a veteran who served with Hartswick. The organization worked directly with Hartswick’s wife, Sara (Bordack) Hartswick, to design and build a shed. Hartswick didn’t know he was going to receive it until the day it was delivered to their home in the State College area.
“Adam and I were absolutely blown away by the generosity!” Sara said. “Our home is fully handicapped accessible, so we don’t have a basement for storage, which makes our garage our primary storage location. Having a shed that was given to us by American Hero Wishes helped us clean up our garage extensively and put things away in the shed My husband had trouble getting into his truck with all our storage in the garage He is missing both legs and often uses a wheelchair , and he has a crane on his truck. This gift has made our lives so much easier and made Adam more independent and more comfortable getting in and out of the vehicle!
“Adam was completely surprised by this gift and completely blown away by the generosity shown by American Hero Wishes. He is so grateful and feels so blessed. He plans to repay it any way he can,” Sara added.
A veteran herself, Houck attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, after graduating from Daniel Boone High School in 2002. She served on active duty in the military from July 2002 until health problems interrupted her in August 2005. During her service, she was awarded the National Service Medal.
Her USOA Ms. Pennsylvania platform, Operation Helping Our Heroes, was dedicated to the men and women of the military.
Houck is a mentor for Veterati, a free mentoring service for veterans transitioning to civilian careers, and she champions organizations including USO, Wounded Warrior Project, Soldiers’ Angels, and Team Red, White & Blue.
“As a veteran myself, from a family with a military background, and as someone who has been actively involved with veterans transitioning to a civilian career, I understand how difficult it can be. hard to try to acclimate back to civilian life once you’re no longer serving it,” Houck said.
With that in mind, she took into consideration how exponentially harder it must be to acclimate to civilian life while carrying permanent injuries.
“I’ve worked with the Wounded Warrior Project for several years now, and I know and have met veterans who have been hurt to the point that their lives will never be the same,” she said. “We have men and women who are losing limbs and may be confined to a bed and/or wheelchair of some kind for the rest of their lives.”
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, about 300,000 men and women have suffered traumatic brain injury, she said.
“As someone who is passionate about supporting our active duty military personnel and veterans, I knew I could do more personally to ensure our injured veterans never doubt how important they and their service are. appreciated.”
“So I took action by creating American Hero Wishes.”
American Hero Wishes to Make a Wish Foundation is intended solely to grant wishes to veterans who have been harmed physically, mentally, or both while serving.
“The purpose of granting the wish of a seriously injured veteran is to lift them up and encourage them to move on to their next mission in life, whatever that may be,” she said.
Wishes may include (but are not limited to) travel, signature sports jerseys, room renovation, and exquisite meals.
“We want this to be something our veteran recipients will cherish and always remember,” she said.
She plans to expand American Hero Wishes across the country “to have a positive impact and uplift as many wounded veterans as possible. I want them to know how much they are revered, supported and loved by their country for what they have done for us.
Fundraising efforts and donations help support wishes.
“We were fortunate to have community organizations donate to American Hero Wishes,” Houck said.
Donors include Union Lodge No. 479 of Birdsboro; Chandler Lodge No. 227 of Reading; and the Good Fellowship Club.
A local “Play for a Cause” golf tournament was held in August with proceeds going to American Hero Wishes. The golf tournament was hosted by Brad O’Reilly, a Reading-area resident who serves in the military.
“Individual fundraising, primarily on social media, has also been an integral part of our fundraising,” she said.
American Hero Wishes is part of the “Amazon Smile” program. Amazon donates to the customer-selected charity each time an individual makes a purchase on Amazon, which has also supported fundraising for the nonprofit.
“The community can help support American Hero Wishes in two main ways. First, if anyone knows of any injured veterans who would benefit from having a wish granted by our organization, please nominate them through our website, www. americanherowishes.org by selecting “Nominate a Hero,” Houck said. “Second, please keep American Hero Wishes in mind for fundraising and donations, which are crucial to enabling us to continue to grant wishes.”
Fundraisers can be set up on Facebook, where American Hero Wishes is a recognized non-profit organization.
Donations can be made on the American Hero Wishes website by selecting “Donate Now”.
“All American Hero Wishes Board Members and I would like to express our deepest gratitude to each organization and each individual contributor who has supported our nonprofit thus far and helped us achieve our very first wish to a very deserving injured veteran,” Houck said. “We couldn’t have done it without your support. Thank you very much, and American Hero Wishes looks forward to continuing to serve our country’s wounded veterans.
Follow American Hero Wishes on social media (Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn). For questions, contact American Hero Wishes at [email protected] To nominate a veteran, visit www.americanherowishes.org and click on “Nominate a Hero”.