Under the colorful canopies of expert sky divers, United Way of the Greater Clarksville Region embarked on its annual giving campaign Thursday at the Clarksville Regional Airport. Following a welcome reception, local United Way supporters and partners gathered on the tarmac as a parachutist team boarded its aircraft and prepared for take-off. Diving 6,000 feet above an excited crowd, the trio of jumpers successfully released not only their chutes, but also a custom flag announcing United Way’s 2016-2017 campaign goal of $1,000,0001.
The three parachutists are local veterans with decades of combined experience. Both Mike Taiser and Pete Schictel are retired service members of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Ft. Campbell. Parachutist John Pitts is a former member of the 101st Airborne Division Parachute Demostration Team – Screaming Eagles. Local pilot Chad Conner flew the jump team in a Cessna 172 owned by Doug Nehrbas.
The event reflects United Way’s campaign focus on inspiring new and different perspectives. Ginna Holleman, local United Way CEO, encouraged attendees to see community needs from a broadened point of view. “We’re here today at the airport to challenge you to look beyond your first glance. To stop and think about what those around you may be facing. The mother in the grocery store with only $25 to feed
her family for the week…the soldier sitting beside you who protected our country at war and is now fighting his own battle inside…the child who wants to succeed, but is struggling through difficult times at home. To ask yourself how you see change and what you will do to propel it. To take a better look and help make a better life,” said Holleman.
Fighting for the education, health and financial stability of local residents in Montgomery, Houston and Stewart Counties, United Way provides funding to high performing local nonprofits serving these initiatives. Dressed reminiscent of a flying ace, United Way Campaign Chair Garnett Ladd made an enthusiastic appeal to guests for their support. “United Way partners with twenty-seven local programs to address critical community concerns. As we broaden our wingspan and extend United
Way’s ability to meet the ever growing needs of our community, we ask for your help. This year, we are thrilled to welcome two new partner programs serving local veterans and active duty military – Soldiers and Families Embraced (S.A.F.E.) and Operation Stand Down Tennessee – Clarksville. Each of United Way’s partner programs provide much-needed services and rely heavily on your generosity to improve lives. The campaign goal of $1 million and one dollars was specifically chosen to deliver the message that every dollar makes a difference,” said Ladd.
Board President Norm Brumblay joined Ladd in encouraging attendees to help United Way reach new heights during the giving campaign. “Working together, the sky’s the limit,” said Brumblay. As he urged in this year’s campaign video, “When you give to United Way, you enable the disabled, you protect the vulnerable, and you give children the tools they need to succeed. You help parents earn adequate incomes to care for their families and you ensure getting older doesn’t mean giving up.”
United Way’s primary revenue is raised through the fundraising support of local workplace partners offering employee and corporate campaigns. Prior to the reception, flight training for workplace campaign partners was led by United Way Resource Development Director Alayna Stevens. From inside the terminal’s panoramic view of daily arrivals and departures, Stevens guided coordinators down the runway of success. “As the captain of your campaign, what kind of pilot will you be?” asked Stevens. “We’re here to help you soar and inspire others on board to give, advocate and volunteer,” she said.