Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Brother Rice Chicago Eleventh graders Conor Durkin, Patrick Ward, and Cole Scarnavack went to the Will County Illinois Veterans Assistance Commission (VAC) to present a check to the VAC Board. The money was collected in a dress down day in November; and Brother Rice students raised over $930. The money has been given to the “Our Patriots” non-profit organization which helps veterans who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness. Every penny from that fund goes to helping veterans. The students met Ms. Kristi McNichol, an Army veteran and the superintendent of the Will County VAC. She gave them a tour of their operation, as well as an in-depth description of the mission of the VAC. Because of the work of the Will County VAC, very few veterans are homeless in the city of Joliet, Illinois.
When asked about the experience, Cole Scarnavack said, “The courageousness of these veterans inspires me to help give back to those who put the country before themselves.” Patrick Ward added, “ I am truly inspired by the work of the employees at the VAC for the sacrifices that they make to improve the lives of their fellow veterans.” The three Crusaders then took part in a board meeting where they were able to meet Wayne Horne, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam that serves as the commissioner of the VAC, and Rocky Caylor, a Marine veteran who is the Chairman of the Board of the Our Patriots Fund. Mr. Horne shared with the group the root causes of veteran homelessness. On average, one in ten veterans is homeless.
The students presented Mr. Horne and Mr. Caylor with the check, and were given a plaque thanking them for helping homeless veterans. Among the board members was Tom Deegan, who has helped our students during this whole process. The students would like to thank Mr. Tom Deegan, a Navy veteran, the father of Brother Rice alumni, and recently retired from the Veterans Administration. We are extremely thankful for the help from Mr. Deegan, Fr. Mark Walter, our school Chaplain and teacher of our Advocacy class, and all of the members of the VAC board. The students were truly humbled and this project has helped them to better understand the meaning of Advocacy.