In 2008, with the financial support of New York Mets Chairman & CEO Fred Wilpon and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Major League Baseball established the Welcome Back Veterans fund to continue to increase public awareness about issues faced by veterans as well as support programs and services that benefit these men and women and their families. Since its inception, Major League Baseball and its Clubs have raised more than $32 million for the cause.
Initial Welcome Back Veterans funding supported a variety of nonprofits targeting veterans' greatest needs, including mental health as well as job training and placement. In 2010, efforts shifted to support a national network of Centers of Excellence to provide the best care to veterans while funding groundbreaking research to continue seeking treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Centers of Excellence are located at internationally recognized, university-based medical centers across the country and include the following seven core centers where treatment models are being developed and patients are being served:
· Braveheart Welcome Back Veterans Southeast Initiative at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.
· Home Base Veteran and Family Care at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston
· Military Support Programs and Networks (MSPAN) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
· Road Home Program at Rush University in Chicago, Ill.
· Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at New York University Langone in New York, N.Y.
· Nathanson Family Resilience Center at UCLA in Los Angeles, Calif.
· Veteran Cultural Competence Project at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
More than 10,000 individuals have been served since the support from Welcome Back Veterans has been established at these facilities. These grantees also provided training to close to 30,000 individuals to help build additional organizations' capacities to better serve military members and their families. More information about the impact of the Welcome Back Veterans initiative can be found at WelcomeBackVeterans.org.
MLB has traditionally donated royalties earned on the sales of patriotic holiday-related apparel (e.g., Stars and Stripes jerseys and caps) to Welcome Back Veterans and other veterans' causes. Beginning in 2017, that revenue has been pooled with other charitable resources to support additional programs for military veterans, service members and their families.
In 2017, more than 330,000 game tickets were distributed at no cost to military and veterans organizations through the Commissioner's Community Initiative and MLB & Players Give Back programs. Each year, MLB All-Star Legacy Projects traditionally have included a project to support our military and veterans, including those planned for the 2018 Midsummer Classic in Washington, D.C.
Additional efforts to support military personnel and veterans, at the league level, included the special 2016 MLB Regular Season game held on Fort Bragg, the first such event in professional sports ever played on an active military base. The "Fort Bragg Game" was the first-of-its-kind sporting event that celebrated the spirit of service to our country. The newly built Fort Bragg Field was converted to a multi-purpose recreational facility for use by service members and their families who serve on the base, as a gift from Major League Baseball's Clubs and players.
At the Club level, each Major League Baseball team supports initiatives in a variety of ways, including special military and veteran appreciation events, military-related community giving and game-day pregame activities. League-wide initiatives such as the support of Memorial Day and Independence Day through specially-designed uniforms worn on-field will continue, in addition to tickets distributed via the Clubs through the league-funded community ticket program.