Pin-ups for Vets raises funds for Military Hospitals
Soon after Gina Elise graduated from college, the deplorable conditions at the Walter Reed Military Hospital came to light in the news. It angered and then inspired her. “I thought that if anybody should be getting the best possible medical care, it should be our veterans.”
She researched fundraising strategies and ended up resurrecting a morale-boosting idea. “I was always a big fan of the 1940’s aesthetic, so I thought, why don’t I produce a pin-up calendar that can in turn raise money for these veterans’ hospitals?” Within months the 2007 calendar and her new non-profit, were launched with a tribute to her grandfather, a World War Two Veteran.
To date, and six calendars later, Pinups for Vets has raised and donated more than 50,000 dollars to VA and military hospitals for cognitive therapy, physical and occupational rehabilitation programs.
The UCLA graduate didn’t envision this as a career but admits, “You never know what something’s going to turn into when you start. ‘Pinups for Vets’ has basically become my life.” Elise is currently in the midst of a fifty state tour of Veterans and Military hospitals. At each she personally delivers donated calendars to the bedsides of wounded warriors.
If you visit the website you can order a calendar for yourself, or designate your gift for a hospitalized or deployed veteran. Elise signs each as a gift from the donors name and during her bedside visits, marks the soldier’s birthday with a kiss from her vintage red lips.
Many hospitalized veterans only see their doctors and nurses, have few visitors and their families are far away. Elise enters the wards unannounced and dressed head to toe in the World War Two style. She asks each veteran about the branch of the service they’re in and engages them to take their minds off their circumstances. Before she leaves she thanks them for their service with a personalized calendar. “I’ve had veterans start crying because they’re very touched that people are thinking about them. A few have even started singing to me.” Her work is so moving that once she was proposed to by an entire military unit!
One of Elise’s best memories came from a visit to a Spinal Injury ward, “I was speaking to this man and he was answering all my questions very slowly and quietly. After leaving the room the nursing staff rushed up to me to say that this was the first time he’d spoken in a month. You just never know what a little human to human contact can do.”
Cooking with the Troops has partnered with Elise and last January they visited severely wounded warriors at the Landstuhl Regional Medical center in Germany. Chef Ellen Allen prepared a feast and the celebration continued with a USO party. Elise signed hundreds of calendars.
This Veterans Day Gina Elise is visiting several military hospitals in the New York area. Later she and Cooking with the Troops will be ringing the closing bell on the NASDAQ floor and hosting a party in Times Square. She plans on continuing her work for years to come – helping underfunded VA hospitals and putting big smiles on the faces of recuperating veterans.
To find out more and support the troops visit: www.PinupsforVets.com
Copyright 2011, Elaine Masters, Travel writer, Yoga teacher and award-winning author of Drivetime Yoga and Flytime Yoga. Get where you’re going feeling great.