Robert Irvine Foundation Year in Review

With your help, the Robert Irvine Foundation extended its reach in 2016, impacting more lives, feeding more people, and entertaining more troops than ever before. As we push into 2017, we will continue to extend that reach. As we do, we wanted to take one last look at the impact we made in 2016.

Things got rolling in February when the Robert Irvine Foundation went to Naval Medical Center San Diego to support the first of three Invincible Spirit Festivals. These massive events, organized by the Gary Sinise Foundation, are day-long rallies for troops and their families that include a concert, plenty of activities for kids, and one very big cookout that I organize with my chefs my good friends at Sysco. At this Invincible Spirit Festival—and two more just like in San Antonio, TX and Bethesda, MD—we fed a grand total of 17,000 troops and their family members. As part of these festivals, I also tour the veterans hospitals with Gary and try to meet the wounded and try to bring a smile to their faces. You can read the stories of some of these brave men and women in Robert Irvine Magazine. 

The Robert Irvine Foundation also continued its support of the USO in 2016, performing 7 RI Live shows for our troops at home and abroad. These are unscripted shows where I cook and respond to challenges from the troops, who also get onstage to participate. Since 2015, I’ve participated in six USO tours through eight foreign countries—Japan, Afghanistan, Spain, Italy, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, Iraq—plus the United States, entertaining almost 9,000 troops.

When I’m out on a USO tour I get to know and train with these men and women. By the end of the trip, I’ve usually been through so many pushup contests that I can’t move my arms. But visiting with the military is a two-way street; whatever entertainment or respite from their troubles the troops are able to derive, I can say that me and my team derive so much more. We leave feeling incredibly inspired by, and connected to, our nation’s very best. 

In October, I was proud to participate in the USO’s 75th Anniversary celebration and serve on the 75th Anniversary Honorary Committee, which was co-chaired by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The committee, which comprised other key figures from the worlds of entertainment, sports, and from within the government and military, was formed to help further the USO’s mission of keeping troops connected to their families back home. I also became a board member of USO Metro Washington, the nation’s largest chartered chapter of the USO, with a long history of service in capital region.

Immediately following the USO’s anniversary celebration, the Robert Irvine Foundation headed to the American Airlines Skyball event in Dallas, TX. Skyball is an incredibly powerful fundraising tool for our troops in need; last year the event raised $2.2 million. Three days of festivities are capped by a Tim McGraw concert; I was there with my team to cook up a feast for 8,000 troops and their families.

Just after Thanksgiving, the Robert Irvine Foundation took its sixth USO tour abroad, visiting Djibouti, Bahrain, and UAE. Just before Christmas, we supported an event called Snowball Express, a multi-day event that provides a huge assortment of fun-filled activities for the children of fallen troops. In support of this truly amazing event, we served up 1,500 meals. On Christmas Day, I returned to Iraq with my wife Gail to spend the holiday with the troops. 

In total, the Robert Irvine Foundation raised $101,812 in 2016, all of which was dispersed through the foundation’s grants programs. Grant recipients included The American Veterans Center, Gary Sinise Foundation, USO Metro Washington, Semper K9, Valor Service Dogs, Buddy Cruise, and Crossroads Corral. A detailed list of the grants issued and who these charities serve can be found here

Robert Irvine Foundation 2016 Grant Awards

“The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.” — Calvin Coolidge

Two of the most valuable lessons that Robert Irvine ever learned are these: 1) A free society can only be free because of the brave men and women who serve its military; and 2) The more we share, the more we ultimately have. Giving for the sake of giving is its own reward. Giving to those who defend the nation serves an even higher, and necessary, purpose.

These two lessons combined to serve as the guideposts for Robert’s career. Indeed, much of his work on television over the past decade has been focused on lifting others up. But even when he’s not working, Robert has been using nearly every spare moment of his free time to volunteer. For the past several years, that volunteering is done primarily for the USO and as an ambassador to the Gary Sinise Foundation. In 2016 he spent 65 full days volunteering his time and talent to these and other charitable organizations, visiting military bases here in the U.S. and war zones throughout the Middle East, including spending Christmas Day in Iraq with his wife, Gail.

These lessons also form the backbone of The Robert Irvine Foundation, which raises money and issues grants military charities and other organizations who work directly with veterans and those currently serving to improve their way of life. The Robert Irvine Foundation also accepts applications and provides direct grants to the veterans and their families who need it the most.

In the 2016 fiscal year, the foundation raised $101,812 through corporate and individual donors, with a portion of this total being allotted by Robert Irvine Foods and Robert Irvine Products. The full 100% of the total donations received was distributed through the foundation’s grants program. The following organizations and programs received those grants.   

 

American Veterans Center

The mission of the AVC is to guard the legacies and honor the sacrifices of all American veterans. Through oral history preservation, educational programs and civic events, the AVC preserves the stories and lessons of veterans past and present, from which future generations can learn. This year’s grant was used to fund transportation support for the 2017 National Memorial Day Parade. The National Memorial Day Parade, held annually along Constitution Avenue in our nation’s capital shares the story of American honor and sacrifice from across the generations. The parade, commemorating its 12th year, is our nation’s largest Memorial Day event, drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators to the National Mall to pay tribute to those who have served, are serving, and most importantly, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while in service to our country.

The National Memorial Day Parade is a moving timeline of American military history, honoring those who have served and sacrificed from the American Revolution to the present day. It draws on the tradition of Memorial Day parades, going back to the beginning of the holiday just after the Civil War, to create a family-friendly event aimed at calling attention to the true meaning of Memorial Day—honoring our fallen heroes.

www.americanveteranscenter.org

 

Buddy Cruise

Buddy Cruise is a 501c3 non-profit charity providing educational opportunities and resources for families, while promoting awareness, acceptance, and inclusion for individuals with Down syndrome and developmental delays through unique venues.

The programs offered by Buddy Cruise are not only beneficial for families touched by Down syndrome but other special needs as well. A Buddy Cruise gives participants the opportunity to gain information through educational workshops and events, and to network and form lasting bonds with other families from across the globe who are in similar situations. Families who have a hard time finding a scenario to meet all family members’ needs are accommodated with a variety of activities for all ages and abilities.

www.buddycruise.com

Crossroads Corral

Crossroads Corral is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization based in Central Florida that provides Equine Assisted Therapy and learning activities for active military members and veterans who suffer from PTSD, as well as youth and women who have suffered trauma, abuse and neglect.

www.crossroadscorral.org

Gary Sinise Foundation

The experiences of war leave an indelible impact on our servicemen and women. As they return to civilian life, the physical, emotional and psychological challenges they face are often difficult. As citizens, supporting the heroes of our nation is a responsibility each of us must carry. The Gary Sinise Foundation works to ensure the sacrifices of America’s defenders and their families are never forgotten.

In 2012, the Gary Sinise Foundation began building custom Smart Homes for America’s severely wounded veterans through its Building for America’s Bravest partner program. Each Smart Home features automated amenities to ease the daily challenges these heroes face. In 2013, the Gary Sinise Foundation expanded these efforts by establishing its R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence & Supporting Empowerment) program.

For more than a decade, Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band have toured the globe in support of our troops. As a part of the Foundation, the band is raising spirits and awareness for military and first responder causes worldwide.

Through its Invincible Spirit Festivals, the Gary Sinise Foundation is boosting the morale at military medical centers across the country. These daylong celebrations provide a respite from the rigors of rehabilitation for the hospital’s patients, staff and families. The Relief & Resiliency Outreach program is providing complete support to those recovering from trauma, injury and loss during times of urgent need. The Foundation is also providing financial support and training to America’s firefighters, police departments and EMTs through its First Responders Outreach program.

Additionally, the Gary Sinise Foundation is showing appreciation through Serving Heroes, a program providing hearty, classic American meals to our defenders across the country. The Arts & Entertainment Outreach program now includes the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago and the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Each theatre provides dinner and a performance to local veterans free of charge.

In 2015, the Gary Sinise Foundation launched Soaring Valor with The National WWII Museum. The program provides WWII veterans a chance to visit the museum and documents their first-hand accounts of the war for future generations.

www.garysinisefoundation.org

Semper K9

Semper K9’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for wounded, critically-ill and injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families by providing them with assistance dogs. Using rescued and donated dogs, Semper K9 provides service dogs for psychiatric alert and mobility challenges free of charge to wounded service members. This year’s grant from the Robert Irvine Foundation was used to retrain a service dog to meet the new needs of his veteran.

www.semperk9.org

Valor Service Dogs

Valor Service Dogs is a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization that helps post-9/11 wounded veterans regain their independence, return to civilian life, and maintain successful partnerships through the training and placing of mobility assistance and PTSD service dogs. In addition to aiding their veterans in community reintegration, both physically and psychologically, Valor Service Dogs brings awareness and education to the public on service dogs, their training, and the laws that allow service dogs to be active members of society.

www.valorservicedogs.org

USO Metropolitan Washington

The USO was founded in preparation for World War II by national leaders who understood that maintaining high morale in a fighting force is vital to a nation’s military success. Over time, the USO has become the vital bridge between Americans and their military service members. The USO is a family of volunteers, sustained by the charitable contributions of millions of generous Americans. The USO is united in its commitment to support America’s service members by keeping them connected to the people, places, and things they love. The USO does this through countless acts of caring, comfort, connection, and support. Its work is America’s most powerful expression of gratitude to the men and women who secure our nation’s freedoms. 

USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore is the largest chapter chartered by the USO. Ten locations and a “deployable” Mobile USO provide signature USO services to the nearly 300,000 military members and their families living in the region and the 150,000 who travel through our local airports.

USO-Metro is a nonprofit 501c3 organization chartered by Congress, and dedicated to serving those who serve, and their families in Washington D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia. It is through the generous financial support of individuals and organizations in the local community that USO-Metro is able to fulfill its mission. With the help of thousands of devoted volunteers, USO-Metro provides programs and services for active duty troops and their families at area military hospitals, six USO Centers, four USO airport lounges and a Mobile USO. Signature programs and services include holiday programs like Turkeys for Troops and Project USO Elf, emergency housing and food assistance, and caring for our wounded, ill and injured troops and their caregivers.

us.uso.org/WashingtonBaltimore/

Foxwoods® Resort Casino Presents Second Annual Savor, A celebration of Food, Wine & Spirits

Foxwoods® Resort Casino Presents Second Annual Savor, A celebration of Food, Wine & Spirits

MASHANTUCKET, Conn, Foxwoods® Resort Casino, the largest resort casino in North America, is excited to present the second annual Savor, A celebration of Wine, Food & Spirits. Taking place April 7 – 9, 2016 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, the three-day event will spotlight some of the world’s top culinary talent in partnership with celebrity chef Robert Irvine, host of the Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible.” Irvine will be joined by other well-known chefs, world-renowned vintners and spirits enthusiasts who will come together to share their love for exquisite flavors with the local community. Guests will enjoy a vast selection of local dishes from regional restaurants, culinary demonstrations, and wine, beer and fine spirits tastings.

Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine Introduces “Better for You” Food Company. Proceeds benefit Robert Irvine Foundation

Chef Robert Irvine and Giant Food of Landover, Md., announced today that the renowned Chef’s new company of nutritionally improved food products will initially be available exclusively at Giant’s 168 stores throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The announcement was made at the O Street Market Giant store in Washington D.C. today, where both Chef Irvine and Gordon Reid, president of Giant Food of Landover, Md. launched the partnership. The celebrated Chef joined Mr. Reid in presenting a $25,000 donation to USO-Metro, generated from Giant’s March Giving Campaign. As part of the ongoing commitment by both organizations to support our nation’s military and their families, a portion of the proceeds from product sales will be donated directly through Chef Irvine’s own 501c3 organization, the Robert Irvine Foundation. Additionally, Chef Irvine announced that his foundation would sponsor USO-Metro’s upcoming monthly Warrior and Family Center Chef Dinners.

“Building this company and launching these products is one of the most important projects of my career to-date. It allows me to finally share some of my favorite foods with a healthier approach. These foods are perfect for busy families across the country who strive to improve their diet, but lack the time or resources to do it on their own,” said Chef Irvine. “I’m also very excited to be launching the line with Giant Food, who share my appreciation for and dedication to the U.S. military. Our partnership is the perfect example of how smart and efficient business practices can be used to benefit a greater good.”

As part of the limited, exclusive partnership, Chef Irvine’s all-natural crab cakes, as well as his reduced fat and calorie cheesecakes will be available in the frozen food section of Giant Food stores in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia, with plans to introduce additional products from the food line in the coming months.

“Giant is proud to partner with Chef Robert Irvine and offer, exclusively to our shoppers, an exciting product line of nutritious and delicious family favorites that are easy to prepare,” said Gordon Reid, president of Giant Food. “This partnership is a natural fit, as both our organizations prioritize quality and recognize the importance of assisting U.S. military members and their families. We’re looking forward to growing this fruitful relationship.”

Throughout its 79-year history, Giant Food has remained committed to providing the highest level of quality, value, and service to its customers. Partnering with Chef Irvine is another example of Giant’s dedication to offering customers new and exciting products at affordable prices. Giant’s commitment to being a better grocer also includes being a better neighbor in the communities it serves. Giant is proud to engage with its communities to alleviate hunger, enhance education programs and health and wellness initiatives, as well as support service members and their families through organizations like USO-Metro.

Chef Irvine started the company last year with the goal to recreate some of his most popular, quick-and-easy meals with full family appeal by using healthier ingredients and without compromising taste. To accomplish this, he committed to partnering with some of the industry’s leading culinary experts and nutritional research and development firms. And to take his commitment to quality and nutrition even one step further, Chef Irvine determined to hold every product to the same nutritional standards used by the Food Program administered by the U.S. Department of Defense. Additional products offered by the company include, ultra thin multigrain pizzas, oven-roasted wings with signature sauces, and the Chef’s top-rated FIT Crunch protein bars. These products, as well as other products currently in development will be available at Giant Food and eventually rolled out to other retail locations nationally. For more information on nutritional values on the full line of food products, please visit http://www.RobertIrvineFoods.com.

About Robert Irvine— With more than 25 years in the culinary profession, Chef Robert Irvine has cooked his way through Europe, the Far East, the Caribbean and the Americas, in hotels and on the high seas. As the host of one of the Food Network’s highest rated shows, Restaurant: Impossible, Irvine saves struggling restaurants across America by assessing and overhauling the restaurant’s weakest spots. Irvine was previously the host of Food Network’s Dinner: Impossible and Worst Cooks in America, has authored two cookbooks, Mission: Cook! and Impossible to Easy, and one healthy living book, Fit Fuel: A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well and Living Your Best Life. Irvine is currently on tour with his new, interactive live show Robert Irvine Live, and appears regularly as an expert guest on national morning and daytime talk shows. Irvine recently established the eponymously named non-profit organization, The Robert Irvine Foundation, in an effort to support military personnel and their families. For more information on Chef Robert Irvine, visit http://www.ChefIrvine.com.

About Giant Food of Landover, Md.— Giant Food LLC, headquartered in Landover, Md., operates 168 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia, and employs approximately 20,000 associates. Included within the 168 stores are 159 full- service pharmacies. Giant opened the first supermarket in the nation’s capital on February 6, 1936. Giving back to the community is a cornerstone that was instilled by the founders more than 79 years ago. The company’s core areas of giving include hunger, education, health and wellness, and supporting service members and military families. In 2014, Giant’s monetary and in-kind contributions exceeded $14.9 million, and the nation’s capital grocer helped partners provide more than 88 million meals. For more information on Giant, visit http://www.giantfood.com.

Chef Robert Irvine Recognized as an Honorary Chief Petty Officer

Chef Robert Irvine Recognized as an Honorary Chief Petty Officer

Robert Irvine has been recognized by the U.S. Navy as an Honorary Chief Petty Officer, a honor bestowed upon the celebrated chef on the basis of his dedication to the Armed Services and commitment to excellence. The recognition ceremony took place at the U.S. Navy Memorial Plaza in Washington D.C. on Friday, May 1, where Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Mike Stevens officiated the honorary title and plaque presentation to Irvine.