Social media can have its perks — just refer to 2016’s various viral awareness campaigns, like the ASL Ice Bucket Challenge created to promote awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or the 22 Pushup Challenge that draws attention to the corresponding number of military veterans who commit suicide each day.
But for Joe Barnhart, the public dissemination of the latter’s astounding statistic is one thing. Actually doing something about it is more his style.
The veteran founded NAFC Not Forgotten Foundation in November 2015 as a way to successfully merge these two concepts, helping to provide resources to veterans nationwide who are transitioning back into civilian life with an emphasis on making them easily accessible.
The organization recognizes the specialized training the military has given veterans, and its compatibility with those who are looking to find meaningful careers in the health, wellness and fitness industry.
“There are veterans nationwide — this isn’t a local problem or challenge,” Barnhart explained. “We’re going from awareness to action. You may know about it, but what are you doing about it? We want to put our stamp on it, and do something. We want to reduce that number.”
On Saturday, Dec. 17, Old Town Clovis’ Forestiere’s Place will host a “Reduce the 22” fundraising event to aid in NAFC Not Forgotten Foundation’s mission, with proceeds going toward donated certifications, employment and therapeutic yoga for veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
To set a goal for itself early on, NAFC Not Forgotten Foundation hit the ground running with an ambitious campaign: hire 2,400 veterans in 24 months. And with 11 months to go, Barnhart said there have been 700 veterans hired for positions with partner, 24 Hour Fitness.
“Anybody who was affiliated with the military gets free certification materials and is guaranteed a job interview,” he said. “They go through Wounded Warrior Project’s program, Warriors to Work, and when a warrior is looking for work, we offer materials and set them up with an interview within five days.”
Barnhart has also seen the health and psychological disorders veterans develop firsthand, understanding that it not only impacts the individual, but his or her entire family.
NAFC Not Forgotten Foundation has partnered with several like-minded organizations to address the needs of those dealing with TBI, PTSD and sexual trauma and abuse, including Yoga for Men in support of the research that shows yoga and exercise positively benefit those who have forms of psychological, mental and emotional disorders.
“Often, you don’t want to go into a class with a bunch of people, so through Yoga for Men, they can stream it right to the veteran on their phone or TV, fill out a survey and it gets uploaded to the University of South Florida,” Barnhart explained. “They get a subscription, so it gets streamed to them whenever they want — archived or live.”
In fact, the foundation director recently met with Fitness Evolution, and starting in January, 50 of its fitness clubs in California are supporting the nonprofit’s efforts through “Reduce the 22” fundraising events and online, streamed classes.
The nonprofit also connected with cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Nasrin Mani, who plans to offer free facial surgery to veterans who’ve received scars or burns on deployment three days a week at two of her California offices — adding yet another resource to NAFC Not Forgotten Foundation’s growing list of services.
The proceeds raised at the upcoming “Reduce the 22” fundraising event in Clovis will partially go toward Dr. Mani’s contributions, assisting veterans with travel and transportation funds and other nominal costs to ensure they can get there. Because for Barnhart, it’s not about changing or doubling up on the established programs devoted to veterans, but adding value to them — filling in those necessary gaps that keep returning soldiers from receiving the aid that’s there.
“We want to be transparent as to what the impact is, but how they get there; the warning signs. We want to get people the knowledge prior to the fact, and it has to be accessible,” he said. “You’re sitting there, no work, can’t get a job — maybe therapeutic yoga could help? Every day you look in the mirror and have a scar on your face? These guys want to hire you. They want to help, but veterans don’t have the accessibility to know that. We want to put those things together.”
To learn more about NAFC Not Forgotten Foundation and how you can contribute, email Barnhart at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (619) 565-8822.
Reduce the 22
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17 at Forestiere’s Place
401 Clovis Ave., Clovis
Event tickets cost $20, which includes two raffle and two beer tickets
Details: (619) 565-8822, www.nafcmission.org