Nonprofit supports veterans through boot campaign
An innovative idea, a country musician, and a pair of combat boots helped launch a national nonprofit campaign that supports retired soldiers. Georgetown resident Larry Murray, then manager of country music headliners such as Joe Nichols and the Eli Young Band, arranged for one of his artists to be photographed in a pair of combat boots as a show of support for U.S. military personnel. That photograph led to a grassroots movement that has touched the lives of thousands of American troops.
“I became involved in the Boot Campaign before it was even a campaign,” explains Larry, now director of operations for the nonprofit. “The founders of this grassroots movement, the Boot Girls, got the idea for the campaign from that photograph. Country musician Joe Nichols became the first of many artists to pose for the campaign. I instantly gravitated to this campaign because it’s so easy to get involved. All I had to do—all anyone has to do—is get on a pair of boots to show support.”
Five professional women from Texas—Sherri Reuland, Ginger Giles, Mariae Bul, Heather Sholl, and Leigh Ann Ranslem—founded the Boot Campaign in 2009 to show appreciation for active military and to raise awareness of the challenges that returning soldiers face. The campaign sells signature “Give Back” boots and merchandise and passes on 100 percent of proceeds to partner charities that support veterans, such as the Armed Forces Foundation and Lone Survivor Foundation.
“Wearing ‘Give Back’ combat boots provides a way to say ‘thank you’ to the more than 1.4 million Americans who serve in active military duty,” says Larry. “When we put our boots on, that’s a reminder that there are people just like us who have sacrificed their lives to protect ours. Wearing these boots also makes a donation to charities that seek to care for the growing number of wounded military veterans, whether those wounds are physical or emotional combat wounds.”
The Boot Campaign thrives on media appearances by the Boot Girls, celebrity endorsements by country music artists and NASCAR drivers, among others, and community events like the Granger Smith 100-Mile Boot Walk from Austin to Fort Hood each April. “People all over the country have a huge desire to show their appreciation for our service men and women but don’t know how,” Larry says. “The campaign gives a community a way to say ‘thank you’ just by getting on their combat boots and walking a day in them.”
Larry embraced full-time work with the Boot Campaign after serving two years on its advisory council. “I left what I thought was my dream job as an artist manager because I knew in my heart that I could do more good for our veterans,” he explains. “I’m working harder than I ever have, but I’m also having more fun. I’m part of an incredible team, and I know we’re going to change the way people look at veteran causes. When that happens, there’s no telling how many lives can be changed.”
In addition to purchasing “Give Back” combat boots and merchandise, individuals can support the Boot Campaign by organizing an office “Boot Challenge” and volunteering with local events. Businesses, organizations, and civic groups can help the Boot Campaign keep operating expenses low through donations and in-kind sponsorships. For more information about the Boot Campaign, see the bootcampaign.org.