Our Inspirational, Charitable Stories
It's all about bonding & connections between the participating teams, players
and the charitable recipients they help
(Scroll down for heartwarming stories)
Want to be inspired? Click on these short videos that will melt your heart and then
read the incredible Charity Stripe stories below
Click on story below to view more inspirational details
Paraplegic Army Veteran Loses Gym Membership, But Never Loses His Love Of Life
Hero Father Saves Daughter, Becomes Paralyzed & Dedicates Life To Educate Children
Vietnam Veteran & Hero Dog Saved Each Other's Life; Now They're On A Mission To Save Thousands of Others
Basketball Players Take The Shot To Give A Wife & Mother of Two A Shot At Hope and a cure
Basketball Team Grants Final Wish To 92-Year Old WWII Veteran...
but the players and a lifelong friend receive the real gift1
Watch the video
D-Day, June 6, 1944. Norval Nelson along with 118 other American UDT
(Underwater Demolition Team) frogmen from Force O, swam almost a mile
under cover of darkness to Omaha Beach. Their mission: detonate and clear the
obstacles that enabled Allied landing craft to get close enough to allow American
troops to win the war in Europe.
Mr. Nelson suffered five serious wounds that day, yet he completed his mission
and was only one of 18 men to return home
Now, 92 years old, Mr. Nelson only had about 6 months left to live and he had
one remaining wish: to see the Navy Seal Museum in Fort Pierce, FL where he & his unit trained prior to the D-Day
landing. He felt compelled to go to honor and pay his final respects to his fellow frogmen who never made it home
That's when The Charity Stripe contacted the Westminster Christian basketball teams to participate in our
Troop Dreams/Free Throws For Heroes event to make Mr. Nelson's dream come true. Mr. Nelson and his
best friend (Mike Natale who joined the Merchant Marines at 15 years old!!!) came to practice, helped
rebound the balls and shared their stories of how and why freedom isn't free
THE TROOP DREAMS WISH CAME TRUE. Donations raised paid roundtrip airfare and hotel accommodations for both Mr. Nelson & Mr. Natale in Fort Pierce, FL. When they arrived, they were given a real HEROES WELCOME:
The Mayor gave them the key to the city'
Several hundred flag-waving students greeted them at the Navy Seal museum
And Comcast SportsNet Chicago/Chuck Garfien covered the story with a 4-minute feature segment
BUT THE STORY DOESN'T END THERE...
Mr. Nelson did pass away a few months later, leaving a huge void in the life of his best buddy, Mike Natale but...
NOT FOR LONG...
The Westminster Christian AD and coaches made Mike Natale an honorary captain to come to any practice/game, sit on the bench and cheer on the players to create a lasting bond & connection with the players
Angela Walker, a disabled, wheelchair-bound Navy Veteran, may no longer have
full use of her legs, but that didn't stop her from pursuing her dream as a singer;
Ms. Walker won the singing competition at the James Lovell V.A. Center in
North Chicago, IL and thus qualified for the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival
in New Orleans, LA.
A couple weeks before the national competition, her computer crashed and she
was unable to save her music and instrumentals which were critical to her rehearsals.
That's when The Charity Stripe contacted the Lakes HS AD & Football Coaches to "Huddle Up For A Hero"
and raise money at a Troop Dreams Military Appreciation Game
Talk about a HUGE SURPRISE. We invited Ms. Walker to sing God Bless America and You Raise Me Up by
Josh Groban during pre-game. Moments later, the team came to midfield and presented her with a brand new
Mac laptop computer.
The players surrounded her, the cheerleaders and pompon squad circled her giving her hugs while the fans
gave her a thunderous standing ovation.
BUT THE STORY DOESN'T END THERE...
Angela won 1st place in the Rhythm & Blues category at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival
And...Angela was invited to perform at the school's talent/variety show
It was the gift that keeps on giving and continues to inspire all
Paraplegic Army Veteran Loses Gym Membership,
But Never Loses His Love Of Life;
SSGT. Wilson, confined to a wheelchair in his late 20's, lost the use of his legs from an IUD in Iraq
Mitch Salzstein, Executive Director of The Charity Stripe, first met SSGT. Wilson at an Adaptive Day
Event sponsored by the Mayor's Office of Chicago. The Charity Stripe set up a mini basketball hoop
as part of its Free Throws For Heroes program
He was very personable and had a huge smile on his face. He loved basketball and it was obvious he
played the game judging by his shooting form. He and Mitch formed an instant bond
At the end of the event, Mitch asked him, "If an angel came down from heaven right now, and granted you one wish, what would you wish for?" He replied, "Mitch, I shouldn't even be alive now. I lost my legs, but nearly lost my life. Everyday, I wake up in the morning and see the sun shining, that's the best wish I could ever have."
After asking the same "I appreciate that, but what would you wish for" question 3 more times, getting the same response from him over and over again, , Mitch jokingly said, "Listen, if you don't tell me your wish, I'm going
to push you and your wheelchair over."
Finally, he said he wished that he still had his gym membership, something critically important to maintain his
upper body strength to operate his wheelchair. But, it was either pay his utility bills or monthly membership dues...
but he couldn't afford both. Mitch asked if he explained his situation to the manager at this health club and he said,
"No, I didn't explain it to him. I am responsible like everyone else and if I can't pay my monthly dues, I shouldn't be given any preferential treatment."
Right then and there, we had to get his gym membership back. Mitch contacted XSports Fitness, explained
the situation to the manager who said he had no idea about SSGT. Wilson or his situation...he just thought
he simply stopped coming to work out
BUT THE STORY DOESN'T END THERE...
I instructed SSGT. Wilson to go back to and schedule a day/time to "talk to the manager." When he entered the facility, he received a "Heroes Welcome" by dozens of staff and gym members who held up signs and chanted "Welcome Back, We Missed You."
Tears flowed and SSGT. Wilson received a lifetime gym membership along with a personal trainer.
We can all learn valuable life lessons and gain incredible perspective from situations like this
Football Teams Grant a Troop Dreams Wish To A Disabled Navy Veteran
That Was Truly Music To Her Ears...And The Hundreds of Players & Fans in Attendance
Hero Father Saves Daughter from Gunfire, Becomes Paralyzed &
Then Becomes Empowered To Educate Children;
A Case of Mistaken Identity Gives Life To A Whole New Identity
It began as a typical day in 2014; Shawn Harrington, star basketball player for Marshall HS
who also had a cameo role in the iconic film, "Hoop Dreams," drove his daughter to school.
He wanted his daughter to be safe in the car rather than walking the dangerous streets of
Chicago's West Side
That morning Shawn brought his car in for repair and was given a loaner for the day.
Unfortunately the loaner was the exact make, model and color of a rival gang member's car.
As Shawn as his daughter were stopped at a red light just a few blocks from school, gunshots
pierced the windows and Shawn instinctively dove to push his daughter down and protect her.
He saved her life (2 bullets were found in the passenger seat headrest), but Shawn was hit in
the back causing paralysis from the waist down
Rather than being despaired, Shawn was inspired. He vowed to walk again...and has dedicated
his life to educating children. The Charity Stripe contributed donations from participating "Free
Throw Events at schools to help fund an exo-skeleton to help Shawn walk again...and one day
fulfill his wish of walking both his beautiful daughters down the aisle.
The shooting has not stopped Shawn. In fact, it's motivated him more than ever to give back
and educate kids. Him and Jimmy Sanders, a star high school basketball player in his own right,
host an annual "Hoops for Peace" basketball clinic for underprivileged youth where each
participant received quality instruction and a free book to read. He also is an special education
assistant at Marshall HS helping students with special needs & challenge
In 2018, Shawn was voted one of Chicago's Top 20 most inspiring people, joining
icons such as Chance the Rapper, Anthony Rizzo and Cardinal Blase Supich.
Shawn was also the main subject of compelling book, "All The Dreams We Dreamed"
authored by Shawn's collegiate basketball coach,
Vietnam Army Veteran and His Dog, Gander Saved Each Other's Life
And Now They're On A Mission To Save Thousands of Others
Lon Hodge served in Vietnam conflict from 1973-1981working in the medical core where he
faced the harsh reality of battlefield injuries on a daily basis. For nearly 10 years after his
return home, Lon suffered terrible panic attacks, horrific nightmares and extreme PTSD
His turning point came in 2012 when Lon was matched with an incredible service dog
("A Battle Buddy") named Gander, a lab-poodle highly trained in working with Veterans
experiencing deep depression & other invisible wounds. Gander himself was a rescue dog,
just days away from being euthanized, before being trained as a service dog companion
As Lon says, "Gander saved my life. He is my friend, my family and my connection to all
that is good. He is an essential part of my life and my well-being
And Gander has become an icon in his own right: He has over 237,000 Facebook and
75,000 Twitter followers and was honored in 2014 as the recipient of the American Kennel
Club Service Dog of the year award
They tour the country together and encouraging and inspiring Veterans as well as visiting
hundreds of schools, talking and reading to students as part of their Operation Fetch
Their constant travels criss-crossing the country caused significant wear and tear on their
van/trailer conking out with about 180,000 miles on the odometer
The Charity Stripe stepped in and, with the help of several high school sports teams,
raised money to purchase a used, low-mileage van and trailer so both Lon and Gander
can continue their mission of positively affecting and inspiring others
High School Basketball Program Steps Up To The Line & Takes The Shot
To Give A Wife & Mother of Two A Shot At Hope
Faced with an aggressive form of cancer, Michelle P. needed to take an aggressive approach
to find a cure. Michelle and her family were especially thankful when they received the news
that she would be able to participate in a new experimental clinical trial at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas
Michelle's family funds were more and more limited due to the rising costs of her medical
care and that's when the Geneva basketball teams decided to participate in The Charity
Stripe's "Free Throws For The Fight Event
The players got pledges for every free throw they made and presented Michelle and her
family with a check to cover some of the costs for their several weeks stay in Houston
Aimbridge Hospitality, one of America's premier hotel management companies, also stepped up in a big way covering the room accommodations and incidental expenses incurred by the family
While the clinical experiment and drug helped Michelle for a time, she finally lost her courageous battle ,but was able to spend several precious quality months with her family