Saturday, May 25, 2024

Organization honors veterans and first responders, one hero at a time

Matt Kipp didn’t start the wildly successful nonprofit Spirit of Hero, nor will he take sole credit for any of the many wins this organization and its leaders have had over the past 12 years in supporting Veterans, first responders, frontline workers, and their families. He insists the credit for that should always go to founders Rick and Tancy Turner and the example they set for everyone else to follow.

Matt Kipp

That said, being board president means ensuring that legacy lives on, and Kipp will be the first to say they are as committed as ever.

“Every event we do is a big deal to us, and as far as I’m concerned, we’re continuing to do some great stuff,” Kipp said. He was named board president in 2023. “We’re just trying to raise awareness for our disabled vets and first responders. They mean the world to us.”

Spirit of a Hero is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission has always been to provide financial, moral, and community support to disabled veterans of the United States Armed Forces who sacrificed limbs and their lives to protect our freedom. Beyond raising money, they want to raise awareness of Veteran behavioral issues, provide hope and support, and bridge service gaps through community-driven activities. In 2023, the organization expanded to include first responders and frontline workers and has raised millions through motorcycle rides, golf tournaments, and galas. They also donate time, knowledge, and skill to remodel homes, build houses, do vehicle conversions, and anything else that fills a need for heroes and their families.

Every year, they pick a hero/family recipient for these good deeds. In 2012, Rick Turner, an 82nd Airborne and Purple Heart recipient who is a disabled Veteran in his own right, read the story of a young 82nd Airborne Paratrooper named SSGT Travis Mills, who had lost all four limbs. Turner and his wife, Tancy, knew they had to do something to help, so they organized a motorcycle ride that featured over 1,800 motorcycles and raised $30,000. Since then, Spirit of a Hero has honored 12 more inspiring individuals.

This includes Turner in 2023 and Andy Allison, a Lewisville firefighter, in 2024.

“Rick fits the mold of what we are as an organization, and nominating him as the recipient in 2023 was met with absolute praise,” Kipp said. “Shortly after that, Rick and I were invited to a Veteran’s luncheon and were surprised with a $5,000 donation. It was completely unexpected, and we wanted to do something powerful with that money. So we decided as a board to adopt two families for Christmas. One was the family of Stephen Miller, an Argyle police officer with Stage 4 colon cancer, and the other was Andy Allison. It was then that we knew we had to add first responders and frontline workers to our mission, and Andy was our Hero recipient in 2024.”

Their mission has only gained momentum since that day.

Spirit of a Hero hosted its third-annual golf tournament in April and is already gearing up for its annual Carry the Load event, which is held in honor of Memorial Day and the sacrifices of our nation’s heroes. When the event — slated for May 18 — started eight years ago, there were a handful of attendees. Last year, there were roughly 150 walkers, and Kipp expects there to be 200 or more this year. The six-mile walk starts at Lantana Community Church at 8 a.m. and continues to Denton County ESD No. 1 Fire Station in Argyle.

They’ll host their annual gala on September 21. And in October, Spirit of a Hero will host its annual motorcycle ride again, which had over 500 motorcycles last year.

“Everything is rolling in the right direction, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the support we get every year,” Kipp said. “The Turners have a dream to one day have a facility in Denton County called At Ease to offer treatment and support for Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues. Day or night, someone will be there for them, and honestly, there’s nothing like that in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We want to ensure this dream of a safe space for all Veterans becomes a reality.”

If you’d like to learn more about Spirit of a Hero, including the many ways to get involved or donate, visit spiritofahero.org.

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