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Caps for a Cause

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
After her husband – a master sergeant in the Air Force – was killed in Iraq, Carol Crowell immediately began searching for a support group. But it was a struggle to find one that met the needs of young military widows with children.

Then she discovered Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) through a pamphlet.

When she attended her first TAPS Regional Seminar and Good Grief Camp at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, she encountered widows, children, parents and others who had lost a service member all gathered in one place.

“That’s exactly what we needed,” said Crowell. “People that were like us who had experienced a military loss – that was a big thing, especially for the kids.”

During the Washington Capitals’ ninth Salute to the Military Night, Crowell and her two sons celebrated as Bonnie Carroll, founder and president of the organization that has helped them cope with their loss, accepted a check for TAPS in the amount of $105,742.76. The funds were raised through the Washington Capitals Courage Caps campaign presented by SKYDEX Technologies.

TAPS provides emotional support to anyone grieving the death of someone who served in the military. The nonprofit organization received 100% of the proceeds raised through the Courage Caps campaign, which was designed to honor members of the military and their families.

Since the initiative launched in 2007, the Courage Caps campaign has set a record each year, raising nearly $250,000 through the sale of more than 8,000 Courage Caps in five years and more than 3,000 Courage T-shirts in three years. Nearly 2,500 Courage Caps and 2,000 Courage T-shirts were sold this year.

In addition to TAPS, previous donation recipients include Our Military Kids, USO-Metro, the Fisher House Foundation and CureSearch.

“The Capitals are proud to support the armed forces through the Courage Caps campaign,” said Dick Patrick, Monumental Sports & Entertainment chief operating officer and Capitals president. “The growth of the program throughout the past five seasons reflects the team and fans’ commitment to service members and their families, whose courageous efforts we are pleased to honor. The support by Capitals fans has been tremendous, and we appreciate their generosity. It’s the key to a successful campaign."

Funds raised through this season’s Courage Caps campaign will provide peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, regional seminars for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance and a 24/7 resource and information hotline to bereaved military families.

“It really means a lot on a very personal level to have the Courage Caps campaign support TAPS financially,” said Carroll, who founded the organization following the death of her husband in an Army C-12 plane crash. “The funding TAPS received will make a huge difference in our ability to provide services 24/7 for our military family members who have suffered a loss.”

This year’s campaign was sponsored by SKYDEX Technologies, an industry leader in developing protective products for the armed forces that are designed to increase survivability and reduce injuries.

Mike Buchen, SKYDEX president and CEO, said it was important for the company to work with the Capitals to benefit TAPS because the program aligns with SKYDEX’s mission to protect service members.

“The community is amazing and the Caps are just as amazing in the way they give back,” said Buchen. “It’s with a spirit and a sincerity that we just have to join and be part of. This is not just a normal fundraiser – this is a piece of people’s hearts going out to people who really need help.”

TAPS has assisted more than 35,000 surviving family members, casualty officers and caregivers since its launch in 1994, including the Crowell family.

Since the Leonardtown, Md., family’s first TAPS meeting at Fort Campbell, the Crowells have attended the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar each year. Ian, 6, and Eric, 13, also attend the program’s Good Grief Camps, which provide children with fellowship and coping skills.

As the Capitals hosted Military Night, the Crowells attended their first game at Verizon Center, where the team and fans paid respect to the armed forces through several in-arena tributes.

“Seeing that they’re doing all the tributes to the military – it’s emotional, but it builds a sense of pride too,” said Crowell. “I’m proud of the fans that are standing up and honoring the military.”

Observing the team’s presentation of the check to TAPS also was significant to the Crowell family.

“Even my son – when Bonnie was presented with the check – got this big smile on his face because they really do so much for us,” said Crowell. “I think that it really says something when a 13-year-old understands what it means for TAPS to get donations like that. I’m very happy for them.”

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