DAV wins with home runs
Brooke Hock was scrolling through TikTok on her phone when something made her pause: a video about the number of veteran suicides that happen in our country every day.
Immediately, Brooke’s thoughts raced to her grandfather, Ed LaTour, a Vietnam veteran. As a little girl, she would run her fingers across the brightly colored ribbons and the medals her grandfather had displayed, her eyes wide. Growing up, her grandfather had also shared stories of his service in the Army, though he did not speak much about his time in Vietnam.
Heartbroken to think that her grandfather’s comrades could be among those with post-traumatic stress disorder following their combat service—and learning some veterans end up taking their lives because of it—Brooke knew she had to do something.
“I found the suicide rates for veterans absolutely shocking because my grandfather is a veteran,” she said. “So I wanted to do something to help. What better way to do that than combine it with something I love—which is softball.”
Hock contacted her hitting coach, Brad Foytik, and told him about her idea for a home run derby to raise funds for veterans.
“Brooke came to me with this idea, and I said, ‘If we are going to do this, let’s really do this.’ So I invited her to meet some DAV chapter members in our area,” Foytik said. “After listening to stories about the services DAV provides to local veterans, she was hooked. She wanted to donate the proceeds to DAV.”
Before plans for the derby were finalized, DAV Department of Wisconsin Adjutant Matt Kempainen met Hock to explain the numerous ways DAV uses funds to serve veterans in the local community.
“One thing DAV does is to give veterans a hand up when they fall on hard times so that they don’t become homeless,” Kempainen said. “We want to help cover occasional expenses until they can find their footing again, which of course, they want to do. Many veterans are doing OK making their monthly rent or mortgage payments. But there is not much left over at the end of the month to take care of their families. We often provide grocery gift cards so they can feed their families or gas cards so they can get to work.”
When asked why he pointed Hock to DAV as a recipient, Foytik said, “Well, for me, the reason is both good people and a great cause, in that order. DAV is full of phenomenal people. I’ve worked with a tremendous amount of nonprofits over the years. It all came down to the fact that DAV always appreciates our efforts and is fantastic to work with. I want to encourage others to ally with DAV. Second, the veteran population is underserved. After all that they have sacrificed, they deserve to be honored.”
Brooke’s softball derby, dubbed Home Run for Heroes, was a hit, raising $3,200 for DAV.
Hock’s family—who all pitched in to support her efforts—aspires to continue knocking it out of the park with DAV to help even more veterans for years to come.
“Brooke’s mom told me their family wants to keep doing the derby event every year, partnering with DAV as the recipient,” Kempainen said. “You know, it’s because of Brooke and young people like her, getting out there and doing these things, that we can help our fellow veterans and their families. She is going to continue Home Run for Heroes every summer between her college semesters. It’s truly inspiring!”
Brooke is one of many young people with a passion to take action for veterans. She is definitely part of DAV’s bright future.
Will you partner with DAV—and young fundraisers like Brooke—to support our nation's heroes? Create your own fundraiser or donate today.