Meet the Colorado women helping heroes fly - and learn how you can too.
When Terri Keeney asked her good friend Christy if her active-duty son, Devan, was going to make it home for the holidays, she was shocked to find out he couldn’t afford it. Although Devan had been granted leave, visiting home for active-duty military is often considered a luxury.
It was then that Keeney, a resident of Greeley, Colorado, realized there was a need to help service members make it home. “They’re paid at near poverty levels for their first four pay grades, and they still have food, uniforms, and insurance taken out. So getting home is literally considered a luxury. I was just so sad, heart-broken, and angry,” said Keeney.
While a loan from the Red Cross is available to those who have been granted leave, it’s deducted from their paycheck until it’s been paid back.
We feel that if someone puts their life on the line and sacrificially defends our country, they should be able to get home when they need to regardless of finances.”
Determined to help in any way possible, Keeney reached out to friend Pam Matt, and together they created Helping Heroes Fly. The non-profit celebrated its one year birthday on February 10, and has helped fly 75 servicemen and women to date. Though they operate out of Greeley, the service members they’ve helped have come from all over the nation.
“We have brought [service members] from all over the world. From Korea, Africa, England, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico… we’ve helped servicemen and women from all over get to where they needed to go to be with their loved ones.”
And it’s not just getting them home for the holidays, either. Keeney says they’ve flown service members home for the birth of a child, to say goodbye to loved ones in their last days, or to be honored in their hometown.
Helping Heroes Fly is the only organization operating year-round to get service members home, and at least 90% of donations go directly to round-trip airfare. “Pam and I donate 100% of our time, and we donate a lot of the resources. We really want our donor’s dollars to go toward airfare, so we operate on 10% or less,” Keeney says.
“It’s grown far faster than we ever thought that it would, and it’s our goal to never have to say no,” says Keeney. But the need is so great (particularly during the holidays) that sometimes applications have to be shut down. “Last year we went through about $58,000, but we thought we were going to do about $10,000. We had no idea.”
This year, Keeney knows they’ll get even more requests. “We’ve gotten to the point that commanders on bases know about us, and they’ll call us when they have a soldier who needs to get home,” said Keeney. HHF sponsors servicemen and women from any branch of the military, but it’s a heavy load to carry as the only year round nonprofit like it in the US.
That’s why HHF is hosting the upcoming Armed Forces Day Color Run. Walk, run, or jog for a good cause at 8 am on May 20th at Greeley West Park, where all proceeds will go directly to airfare costs for enlisted military.
Can’t make it? Anyone who wishes to make a donation can do so through the website, www.helpingheroesfly.com or via the HHF Facebook. They are a registered non-profit with Amazon Smile, where .5% of your online shopping will go directly to Helping Heroes Fly. Capital One Reward Miles are happily accepted as well.
Know a serviceman or woman who needs to make it home? The airfare application is a quick and simple process!