“Surprise!” is usually not something you want a bunch of fraternity guys to scream at you, because, particularly if you are a pledge, what follows after that is generally unpleasant. But the Kappa Alpha Order at High Point University in North Carolina dropped one hell of a surprise on a local gentleman on Saturday that had nothing to do with hazing and everything to do with giving back.
Earlier this year, the chapter banded together to launch Operation KARE, which stands for “Knowledge, Awareness, Respect, Encourage.” Partnering with both The Independence Fund, which provides veterans’ support, and Heal Team 6, the goal of the project was to raise enough funds to purchase a “track chair” for a wounded veteran. According to the project’s website, “Track Chairs are built for the active veteran. These amazing chairs allow our veterans to live an active lifestyle. They can go just about anywhere. They can fish, hunt, go camping or simply enjoy the outdoors in all weather conditions.”
Well, if the goal was to raise enough for one track chair, the chapter succeeded – and then some, raising a grand total of $26,000 through individual donations, sponsorships, and a direct mailing campaign, which was enough to purchase a track chair for a local veteran and make an additional $10,000 donation to the Independence Project for future chair purchases.
Mike Verardo, a wounded veteran who regular attendee at Independence Project events, was the surprise recipient of the chair on Saturday, which was the six-year anniversary of Verardo losing his left leg while serving in Afghanistan. Verardo thought he was simply attending the event at High Point as a “regular” attendee; instead, he was the beneficiary of the chapter’s hard work.
“I was shocked and excited all in one. It’s really great,” Verardo told MyFox8.
Tommy Rieman, The Independence Fund Executive Director, told the station that track chairs are essential to ensuring that veterans have the most mobility possible. “If you were in a wheelchair for a day, you’d lose your mind just because of the obstacles that are there. These chairs go beyond those obstacles—it’s incredible,” Rieman said.
In a press release from High Point University], Verardo seconded Rieman’s statement, saying, “This Track Chair is going to help me get back to doing the things that I want to do like hiking and fishing. I have two small children, so I will be able to play with them the backyard and it will help me as far as mobility. It really means a lot that the younger generation is coming out and helping veterans. It is really heartwarming to see that.”
As for why this particular cause is so important to the chapter, Kappa Alpha chapter president Michael Esposito said, “For us, it’s a matter of perspective. We are young men aged 18-22. While we are in the library cramming for a midterm or spending time with our friends on a Saturday night, there are men and women around the world – the same age as us – serving this country. We want to do a humble service for a wounded veteran who has fought to keep us safe and free.”.