This summer we launched our growing College Collection in partnership with non-profit Operation Hat Trick. OHT isn't your average non-profit. They've taken a unique approach to raising money for wounded service members and Veterans by teaming up with colleges, high schools, minor league baseball teams, companies, and even NHL teams to sell officially licensed products with a purpose. A portion of proceeds from each College Collection T-Shirt sold goes back to Operation Hat Trick and their mission all year round.
Dot Sheehan, Director & Founder of Operation Hat Trick, talks with us about the OHT mission and impact on wounded service members and veterans
The Mountain: For people who are just meeting your organization for the first time, what is Operation Hat Trick?
DOT: Operation Hat Trick is a non-profit organization that generates awareness and support for the recovery of wounded service members and Veterans through the sale of OHT branded merchandise, proceeds of which are distributed to the organizations that support the OHT mission, with a portion of every sale coming back to OHT.
M: Where did the idea for Operation Hat Trick come from?
D: In 2007 I was listening to a Boston radio station. The contest of the day asked this question: ”What is the one thing head wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan want the most?” The answer was a baseball cap that would cover wounds, swelling, burns, treatment, and bandages. I was so taken by it that I knew I had to do something. I was working at the University of New Hampshire at the time in Athletics, and at UNH we lived and died by hockey, so in the middle of the night I came up with the name Operation Hat Trick. A few months after I had this idea, the son of a UNH Professor and his wife, Nate Hardy, was killed in Iraq along with fellow Navy Seal, Mike Koch. Both were Navy Seals. We dedicated OHT to them. OHT went National in 2012 and today we have 269 colleges and universities, 100 high schools, 70 Minor League Baseball teams, 21 NHL teams, and over 50 companies that have adopted OHT.
M: What kind of support does OHT provide for service members?
D: OHT fills some white space. By that I mean there is a huge gap between what is covered by benefits/insurance and the great need that wounded service members and veterans have. We fill some of that need. Things like home heating oil for a Veteran who has PTSD and cannot work; shoes for prosthetics legs; the cost of service dogs; staff that manages retreats for Veterans who need help acclimating back into their communities; adaptive equipment, etc.
M: What’s been one of the highlights so far in the Operation Hat Trick community?
D: Seeing service members and Veterans progress in their recovery thanks to our donations. Seeing High Schools celebrate Awareness Week, where students learn about the sacrifices of the military and gain an understanding of the support the military needs. Watching colleges, universities, and major league teams celebrate OHT during their Military Days, and certainly hearing first-hand from recovering service members and Veterans just what a profound impact OHT has had on them.
"when I saw colleges and universities make such a commitment to the program, I knew we had something very special."
M: Was there a particular moment when you realized just how big of an impact OHT was making?
D: I actually underestimated the power of what had been created. OHT combines the love of one’s school/university/team/company with the love of one’s country, and that is a very powerful combination. Sometimes I still underestimate exactly what has happened with OHT, but when I saw colleges and universities make such a commitment to the program, I knew we had something very special. It’s been the easiest conversation to have with anyone. Everyone can relate on some level. Also when we started to generate money and saw just what good we were doing to help fill so many needs, I knew that this was going to be a success I never, ever, imagined.
M: Is there anything students/alumni from schools that haven’t adopted Operation Hat Trick can do to make their school aware of your organization, and help advocate for it?
D: We are very proactive trying to get those schools that have not adopted OHT to do so. The sky is the limit here so getting everyone on board is the goal, but a very lofty one. It’s why we have partnerships with the Mountain and other licensees. They help in getting the word out, and every time a supporter buys and wears OHT gear, and uses OHT products we are increasing visibility and exposure.
M: At the end of the day, what is the one thing you hope sticks with people after learning about Operation Hat Trick?
D: That OHT is an organization that knows where every dollar goes; that we select organizations to whom we make donations very carefully; and that at the end of the day we fill even just a little bit of the growing need among the wounded military community.
If you'd like to learn more about Operation Hat Trick, please visit their website.
Thank you to all our veterans & Happy Veterans Day.
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