Honoring Our Veterans on Veterans Day
There are all kinds of ways to show your appreciation and support for our nation’s veterans. It can be as simple as saying “Thank you for your service” when you see a soldier, or as involved as volunteering at a VA hospital or sponsoring an Honor Flight.
Over the years, we’ve been honored to help several organizations design special Veterans Day challenge coins that celebrate service and honor a soldier’s sacrifice, and this year, one specific organization caught our eye: Scoops for Troops.
The founder of the organization, Michael Ahern, is only nine-years-old. Six months ago, he set a goal of raising $30,000 for the Travis Mills Foundation and set to work. Michael and his family have an amazing story to tell, and it all started with a little ice cream and a kid who wanted to do something nice for the veterans in his hometown.
Michael Ahern and the Travis Mills Foundation
Michael’s family has a home in Maine near the Travis Mills Foundation. Over the last few years, they’ve had the opportunity to see the foundation grow and become what it is today. It was designed as a retreat to help recalibrated veterans overcome physical obstacles, strengthen their family bonds, and experience some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
A recalibrated veteran is a veteran who has experienced a loss of limb or a severe spinal cord injury while in service. Michael’s father, Scott Ahern, told us about how Michael and his sister Kara had a chance to meet a few of the veterans staying at the foundation, and how that was the spark that got everything started.
They were driving passed the foundation one day when Michael said that he wanted to do something nice for the kids staying there with their families. “His favorite thing to do is to go get ice cream on our boat,” said Ahern. So, naturally, Michael came up with a plan to send all of the children staying at the Travis Mills Foundation to the local ice cream parlor, Lakeside Scoop.
With his parent’s help, Michael wrote letters to the Travis Mills Foundation and Lakeside Scoop pitching the idea. Both organizations gave their full support, and it didn’t take long for Michael to reach his initial goal of raising $400.
It was enough to send all of the kids staying at the Travis Mills Foundation with their families to get ice cream, but Michael wanted to keep going. “When we met at the foundation to present the check, he knew he wanted to do more,” said Ahern. “At one point of the conversation, it was mentioned that it costs $30,000 to fill the retreat with families for one week. Michael immediately said that is what he wanted to do.”
When asked about how he reacted to his son’s idea, Ahern said, “My wife and I took a deep breath and explained to him that raising $30,000 is lots of hard work. He said he understood, and this is what he wants to do. Right then and there, we began working on the creation of what would be ‘Scoops For Troops.’
Over the last six months, Michael and his family have been handing out ice cream for donations and sharing their story to get as much support as possible. Local businesses like Lakeside Scoop and charity organizations like the Travis Mills Foundation and Bogies for the Brave have offered an amazing amount of support and helped Scoops for Troops get the word out, but Michael and his family were still looking for new ways to share their story.
That’s where the Scoops for Troops challenge coins come in.
The Scoops for Troops Challenge Coins
Here at Signature Coins, the first we heard about Scoops for Troops was through an email sent to us by Michael and his father. “We reached out to Signature because we love challenge coins,” said Ahern. He and Michael asked if we would consider donating a few coins from our stock to Scoops for Troops. They wanted to use them as raffle items in their upcoming Veterans Day event.
We were excited to help after hearing Michael's story, and instead of giving them a few coins from around our office, we made 100 custom Scoops for Troops challenge coins for free and mailed them to Michael and his family.
“Signature jumped on board,” said Ahern. “That was just absolutely amazing because as much as we wanted to have challenge coins, it just wasn’t in the cards yet because everything was going directly to the foundation.” Scoops for Troops had their last big event of 2019 on November 1st, and we were excited to hear that coins made it in time to be included in the festivities.
It was a catered event for local veterans in celebration of Veterans Day, and all of the proceeds from the coins went directly towards reaching Michael's final goal. The coins will continue to play a role in the organization moving forward as well.
"We expect that by getting the coins out on social media, we can bring awareness to the amazing things being done at the Travis Mills Foundation. Each coin will serve as a reminder that anyone at any age can make a difference."
Making a Difference One Scoop of Ice Cream at a Time
Over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to partner with nonprofits of every shape and size, but it’s not every day that you see a nine-year-old starting an organization all on their own. Michael and his family reached their goal and are celebrating Veterans Day by handing over a check worth $30,000 to the Travis Mills Foundation. It’s a milestone achievement for Scoops for Troops, and this is only the beginning.
“Michael has pledged to keep this going,” said Ahern. “We are exploring and have begun the paperwork for becoming a 501(c)3. Michael really wants this to become a movement showing kids that being involved in your community and making a difference is something they can do at any age.”
We asked Michael what his favorite part of the experience has been so far, and he said, “Meeting the recalibrated veterans and seeing the kids go get ice cream.” It’s been a rewarding experience, and he already has his sights set on 2020, saying, “I made a new goal for this upcoming year to have at least 500 children start their own small organization for ... a church, a cancer hospital or something that they believe in.”
If there is one thing that we’ve learned from Michael, it’s that anyone can make a difference. It doesn’t matter how old you are; it’s just a matter of finding your passion and fighting for something you believe in. We’re honored to be a small part of the Scoops for Troops story and excited to see what Michael and his family have in store for the future.