When West Point graduate Major Mike Erwin came home from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, he saw a significant need: While programs exist to help returning soldiers, many of those non-governmental efforts are tied to supporting veterans struggling with physical pain and injuries. Considering that estimates put the number of soldiers with mental-health challenges at 10 times the number of physically injured veterans, there was a need to focus on the psychological component of the transition from military to civilian life.
In 2010, Erwin founded Team Red, White & Blue. The mission? To help service members returning from deployments in the Middle East adjust to post-military life, through programs that emphasize physical activity and social engagement. In its first year, the organization aimed to help 20 military Families in Michigan and Virginia, but over the next year it quickly expanded beyond those two states in response to demand from young veterans.
To meet their goals of establishing chapters across the country, Team RWB's board of volunteers and advisers needed an identity, a suite of awareness-raising communication materials, plus promotional elements to support the growing number of Team RWB-sponsored running and cycling events for veterans and their communities.
Enter design firm Rule29 of Geneva, IL, whose principal, Justin Ahrens, was introduced to Team RWB in 20 I 0 by one of his clients. Rule29 jumped at the opportunity to contribute services through their Give Initiative, which allocates 20% of the firm's billable time to charitable causes.
Ahrens says that their initial marching orders included developing a logo and website to support the new 501(c)(3) nonprofit; the identity was unveiled in early 2011. Then Team RWB was in the spotlight, thanks to a number of media exposures ("The View," "The Today Show,'' USAToday and other outlets). The ensuing boost in visits prompted a redo of the website, which launched in October 2012. Rule29 also has created materials for a host of major events for Team RWB, including apparel for running and cycling teams, promotional posters and event logos.
Ahrens, who was inspired by family and friends who were military members but hasn't served himself, considers this a small but meaningful way to do so.(Rule29 staffers have become personally involved in Team RWB; studio manager Katrina Strich organized a Bikram yoga workshop in New York City for veterans last September.) The firm's work with Team RWI continues as the nonprofit gains steam. ''We' re now trying to help them organizationally, so they have the tools they need as they grow," Ahrens says. "We' ll keep doing this as long as they'll have us.