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Accept the Challenge | #BurpeesForVets 2021

Carol Walton

Accept the Challenge | #BurpeesForVets 2021

Each year on November 11, we honor the brave people who have served in our armed forces, many of whom risked their lives in active duty. 

Veteran’s Day commemorates the commitment of these courageous individuals. And just as we admire and honor their courage, we also acknowledge that a significant number of these dedicated veterans encounter difficulty readjusting to civilian life, especially if they are living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

The #BurpeesForVets challenge is raising awareness and funding for programs helping veterans who live with PTSD. Since its inception, the #BurpeesForVets challenge has raised over $300,000 in funding for veteran mental health initiatives through peer-to-peer fundraisers. This year, the challenge is going viral, with the intention of making #BurpeesForVets an annual national campaign. 

#BurpeesForVets was developed by Mark Divine, founding Director of Courage Foundation, and his team. Courage Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to educate and empower veterans living with PTSD. 

Through their year-long Veteran Integration Program (VIP), the Courage Foundation implements mentoring and peer-to-peer support for veterans. Their training curriculum is designed to help veterans acquire the lifelong skills and resources needed to transition to civilian life while maintaining a sense of community and camaraderie. Courage Foundation partners with 10 other veteran service organizations to provide programming that addresses three key areas of veteran transition: community building, workforce development, and mental wellness. 

In 2017, Mark and his team created a fundraising campaign challenging peers to join in completing a cumulative 22 million burpees. While discussing the idea behind #BurpeesForVets, Jon Atwater, Chief Administrative Officer, told us: “We were thinking about a big difficult goal to surround a fundraising campaign on. Mark came up with the idea of 22 million burpees. We kicked off the campaign on January 1, 2018, with Mark committing to do 100,000 burpees. We had close to 300 peer-to-peer fundraisers. It was an incredibly successful campaign.” The significance of 22 million burpees was to shed light on the number 22, which is the average number of veteran suicides each day. 

Since the first campaign, there have been a series of events related to the #BurpeesForVets challenge, especially around Veteran’s Day. This year, the focus is to make the #BurpeesForVets challenge go viral to increase national awareness and funding that will help support transitional programming for veterans. The challenge is open to anyone who wants to participate. Jon said, “We want to broaden it and welcome others to make it more of a national campaign, really widen the reach, and build even more awareness.” 

Sid Ellington, Executive Director, added: “One of the other things that we're trying to do is bring the smaller veteran service organizations under one umbrella so that it’s burpees for vets, and not necessarily burpees for Courage Foundation. We want to increase the size of the bullhorn for smaller organizations so that this will continue to evolve. It can be a one-stop-shop for people who want to help veterans. Each year, they can go to #BurpeesForVets, donate to their organization of choice or the general fund, where proceeds will be distributed evenly. And we can raise all boats, so to speak, of the smaller organizations that have the biggest impact.” 

By broadening the audience of participants, they also hope to highlight other lesser-known issues that veterans face. Sid stated, “We want to bring awareness not only to PTSD, veterans suicide, and veterans homelessness but also to other areas such as veterans transitioning into higher education as a first-generation college student, an issue many veterans have to deal with.”

Accept the challenge 

The #BurpeesForVets campaign will start on November 1 and continue until November 30. To participate, do the following:

  • Go to burpeesforvets.com and donate $11.00. Your tax-deductible donation will support several nonprofit partners providing supportive services to veterans living with PTSD. To support a specific nonprofit of your choice, select that organization during the donation checkout. If you are unable to donate $11.00, you can look into sponsorship
  • Record yourself! Start your video by declaring, “I accept the Burpees For Vets challenge.” Set your timer for 11 seconds and do as many burpees as you can in that time. If burpees aren’t your thing, you can also choose to do another exercise (squats, pushups, etc.), whatever is easiest for you.
  • Post your video to a social media platform of your choice. In your post, mention that you donated $11.00 to @burpeesforvets and completed 11 seconds of burpees. Tag and nominate three people to complete the challenge. Make sure to tag @burpeesforvets and #burpeesforvets.

Help spread the word! Become a Campaign Outreach Volunteer

Courage Foundation is now seeking energetic Campaign Outreach Volunteers to help promote the #BurpeesForVets viral campaign. Click here for more information about this remote opportunity. 

Watch the live stream

In addition to the #BurpeesForVets social media challenge, a special Veteran’s Day SEALFIT event will be streamed live on NBC LX

SEALFIT is a fitness program developed by Mark that combines physical training and mental toughness techniques for holistic health. Jon stated, “this is a way to amplify our message and awareness; not only through the social media influencers that are taking part in this but also through the bigger media exposure. We hope that will amplify the participation in the social media campaign. There's a lot of enthusiasm to grow this in future years. We're excited about what the future holds for this campaign.” NBC LX will stream portions of the event on November 11 between 9 am to 1 pm PT. 


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Are you interested in helping veterans in your community? Explore this and other great volunteering opportunities on Idealist.

Carol Walton

Carol Walton is a community organizer at Idealist. She connects our community of idealists with opportunities to volunteer and take action in their area.