MCLEAN, Va., Sept. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- ThanksUSA, a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities for America's military families, announced today that as of the start of this academic year, it has awarded more than $10 million to date in post-secondary school scholarships. The latest scholarship recipients will be honored at ThanksUSA's annual gala in Washington, D.C. on September 30, 2014, where Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno will be the keynote speaker.
"Across the country, people have thanked our brave men and women in uniform by donating to ThanksUSA's scholarship fund, giving the gift of education to the spouses and children of those who have given so much for our country," said ThanksUSA Chairman and CEO Bob Okun. "Now in our ninth year, we are extremely proud and grateful to have provided over $10 million in scholarship awards."
Launched in 2006, ThanksUSA has provided scholarships for university, college and post-secondary vocational education to nearly 3,400 recipients totaling $10.3 million. This season's scholarships are being awarded to 280 recipients, including Alyssa Hochhalter, Andrew Hochhalter, and Benjamin Hochhalter, Air Force triplets from South Carolina; Frances Karnuth, a Coast Guard spouse and mother of six from Illinois whose goal is to become a nurse practitioner; and Chelsea Ehret, the daughter of a Marine who will become the first in her family to earn a Bachelor's degree. Recipients proudly represent every branch of the Armed Forces and every state and the District of Columbia.
"One of my career goals is to follow in my father's footsteps and serve in the United States Army," said Roman Gonzalez, one of this year's Stephen Curry/ThanksUSA scholarship recipients, named for the Golden State Warriors guard and ThanksUSA spokesperson. "But first, thanks to this scholarship, I'm pursuing my education at California State University Sacramento this fall with plans to become Pharmacy Technician."
The annual gala will be held in the same month as Constitution Day, September 17, which caps a summer-long rap music campaign by the charity's teenaged founders, Rachel and Kelsi Okun. The duo performed and produced a music video, "Con Rap," a celebration of the Bill of Rights – "10 good reasons why our brave troops fight" – an upbeat way to honor our government, history and military.
"Rapping about the Constitution was our way of combining our appreciation for military families and our love of learning," said Rachel Okun. "That's what is at the heart of ThanksUSA."
Rachel and Kelsi were inspired to create ThanksUSA by their neighbor, Lt. Col. Lanier Ward, and his family, who faced the challenges of Ward's severe injuries sustained in Iraq and subsequent deployments.
"Our neighbors demonstrated grit and determination as they confronted everyday personal challenges," said Kelsi Okun. "We were compelled to say thank you to them and to all our military families for their courage and sacrifice. Nine years later, the need for scholarships is still strong. We're focused on reaching the next $10-million milestone."
ThanksUSA is a non-partisan, charitable effort to mobilize Americans of all ages to "thank" the men and women of the United States armed forces. The organization provides college, technical and vocational school scholarships for the children and spouses of active-duty status military personnel. For more information, visit www.thanksusa.org.