To sum up the accomplishments of Lt. Col. Dan Rooney is quite the feat. He is the founder of the Owasso-based nonprofit Folds of Honor; a fighter pilot in the Air Force Reserves; a PGA golf professional; an author and motivational speaker; and a decorated veteran, with three tours in Iraq and a long list of commendations and awards under his belt. It’s clear Rooney wears many hats, and does so gladly. A Stillwater native and University of Kansas alum, Rooney started Folds of Honor in 2007; the nonprofit awards scholarships to spouses and children of fallen or disabled veterans. The nonprofit also hosts an Independence Day celebration, Folds of Honor FreedomFest, that was moved to Labor Day due to COVID-19. We caught up with Rooney and got his thoughts on …
… the inspiration
behind the nonprofit.
I was flying to Grand Rapids, Michigan. When we landed, the captain came over the P.A. and informed us that we were carrying the remains of Cpl. Brock Bucklin, and that his identical twin brother, Cpl. Brad Bucklin, had brought him home. I watched his family on the darkest night of their lives, including his four-year-old son … and that was a moment of synchronicity for me that inspired me to start Folds of Honor. That little boy, Jacob, is now 18, and he was the first recipient of a Folds of Honor scholarship.
So far, we’ve given out 25,000 scholarships and awarded over 125 million dollars. I feel our mission statement says it best: ‘Honor their sacrifice. Educate their legacy.’
… moments of success.
I think the most unique things about our nonprofit are the corporate partners. I’ve been lucky to get these moments where people have cared enough about the cause to introduce me to people like the CEO of Quiktrip, Chet [Cadieux]. We just had our Folds of Honor Quiktrip Nascar race in Atlanta. We’re also the official charity of Budweiser – they pledged to donate a dollar for every case sold; so far, that’s been over 18 million dollars raised. That’s huge. And the first event we started, Patriot Golf Day – we have between 5,000-7,000 golf courses around the nation participate, and we’ve raised about 50 million dollars from that. Those are 3 monumental pillars of success that have propelled us forward.
Oklahoma as the homebase.
I’m an Okie. I’m very proud of where I’m from, and I really think the state of Oklahoma represents Folds of Honor; it’s God-fearing and unapologetically patriotic. Our roots are deep here, we’re got great support. I love it here. This is where I wanted to raise my 5 daughters. I don’t plan on moving.
moving to Labor Day.
Everything lately has been about waiting and accessing. We didn’t want to just push that ‘easy button’ and cancel it. There’s always inherent risk, but we’ve got 4,000 military dependents that need us; we’ve got to get them to school.
You’ll still get all the great things you’d expect from FreedomFest during Labor Day weekend – live music, obstacle courses, a kid’s zone and great fireworks.
… how people can help.
Visit the website, foldsofhonor.org, and enroll in the Wingman Program; it’s $13 per month. You might think that’s an odd number, but there are 13 folds that create the triangle shape of freedom – that’s where we get the donation number and the name Folds of Honor. Participate in Patriot Golf Day on Labor Day; get out and play a round of golf. Or go buy some Budweiser. Those are some pretty easy ways to help, right? We’re lucky that 90 cents of every dollar you donate goes to helping people who need it; you know where your money is going.
… what makes
Folds of Honor succeed.
We are blessed to have a whole lot of people helping the mission. For everybody, it’s not work. It’s a vocation; it’s a calling. It’s a seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year mission, just like our freedom. We’re fortunate to have big companies helping us. We have all these people giving us a hand up, force multiplying to make our impact that much bigger.