North Carolina credit unions involved in several fundraising events to aid a national support the troops charity were reaping heartfelt praise as outstanding community leaders after collecting a chart-topping $161,000.
The fundraising spearheaded by the North Carolina Credit Union League and its foundation climaxed June 19 by the end of a grueling, three-day, 230-mile bike ride across the North Carolina countryside as "Team Little Guy" participants aided the "Hope for the Warriors" charity.
For months, CU leaders have kept track of the collection effort as well as the training and performance of bike riders on a "teamlittleguy.com" website leading up to the finale--a trek to five military bases and CUs along the way ending at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.
"Credit unions deserve the utmost praise because they truly serve the community and we particularly appreciate what they have done for us," said Peggy Rochon, Southeast regional director for Hope for the Warriors which has headquarters in Jacksonville and Washington. The organization serves the needs of seriously wounded combat soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We are honored to be chosen as this year's beneficiary of Team Little Guy's fundraising," said Rochon in praising the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation, composed of CUs in North and South Carolina.
The foundation's choice "to fund raise through athletic events is directly in line with our mission of hope beyond recovery and the idea that these heroes can be athletes who are defined by their spirit and not their injuries," she said.
The four CU participants in the last leg of the race from Fort Bragg to Camp Lejuene included John Radebaugh, president/CEO of the league; Eric Gelly, executive vice president, his father, David, and Ed Agnoli, director of education and financial literacy.
Also joining the group was a fifth rider, 1st Class Andy McAffrey, an active-duty soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, who lost his right forearm to a grenade in Afghanistan in 2003 and has participated in a number of Hope for the Warriors events.
Rochon said all funds raised from the CU events benefit the charity's various financial assistance programs, professional development, "Hope and Morale Trips," spouse/caregiver scholarships and construction of a memorial statue to be erected in front of Camp Lejeune.
Apart from the bike ride, the 'Hope' fund-raising campaign figured prominently in moving ceremonies during the league's annual convention June 15 in Pinehurst featuring a live Skype video feed from Iraq by U.S. Army Reservist Thomas Heyden, a CUNA Mutual Group account executive.
In speaking to the convention assemblage, Heyden, also a Team Little Guy bike rider before being deployed to Iraq, thanked the crowd for cards, letters and packages of support encouraging the league group "to ride hard" to Jacksonville.Heyden was also dressed in a Little Guy jersey.
Heyden's remarks were accompanied by testimonials from Hope staffers and CU chapter leaders and others proudly walking up to the microphone announcing their gifts and how they raised the money.
One by one, they shared how they held bakeoffs, car washes, cycle rides and in getting volunteers to help out. "Gifts of all sizes flowed in, including a $35,000 contribution from Palmetto Cooperative Services and $43,000 from Marine Federal Credit Union," noted a spokesman. "Every gift was very meaningful."