Vail Veterans Program merging with Semper Fi & America’s Fund
Move will allow both groups to offer more than they do now
The Vail Veterans Program started with a simple idea: provide injured combat veterans with outdoor experiences in and around Vail. That idea is getting much, much bigger.
As of March 31, the Vail Veterans program will merge with Semper Fi & America’s Fund, a nonprofit group with the same mission — to provide assistance and emotional healing to injured U.S. military veterans.
Vail Veterans Program founder Cheryl Jensen said the group’s “core programs” will stay in Vail. But the merger allows both groups to offer more.
“We kept looking for ways to deepen our impact,” Jensen said of the “long process” of finding a partner. Any merger had to be the right fit, Jensen said. Groups were vetted thoroughly both financially and philosophically.
Semper Fi & America’s Fund fit the bill. That group has a four-star rating on Charity Navigator, and is among few nonprofits to achieve that designation.
More meaningful support
The merger will allow the Vail Veterans Program to provide alumni support in a meaningful way, Jensen said. That meaningful support last year became “Our Mission Continues.” That project began when COVID-19 shut down in-person visits, providing direct financial support to veterans’ families and caregivers. The program also helps provide emotional support and mentoring to veterans.
Even after in-person visits restarted this winter, the Vail Veterans Program wanted to keep Our Mission Continues as an important part of its services.
That was going to be a big, expensive job. That’s where Semper Fi & America’s Fund come in. Since that group began in 2004, it has provided more than $241 million to veterans and their families.
Jensen praised Karen Guenther, the president and founder of Semper Fi & Amrica’s Fund.
“What I love is (Guenther) and I align so much,” Jensen said.
In a release announcing the merger, Guenther said the feeling is mutual.
“We have known (the Vail Veterans Program) since its inception and have deeply valued Cheryl and her team’s love and passion for this very special community,” Guenther said in the release. “Hundreds of service members have already been assisted by both organizations, so this feels like just a natural effort of evolution for our entire team.”
Jensen said the two programs found a natural fit in each other, adding that veterans participating both groups will be eligible to participate in each other’s programs.
The Vail Veterans Program will continue to base its programs in and around Vail, Jensen said. And, she added, she will continue to serve the new, bigger group as a member of an advisory board.
“The passion I have for this work is not going away because we merged,” Jensen said.
‘A phenomenal merger’
A veteran who has benefited from both programs believes the merger is a good move.
“The merger of two amazing organizations, the Semper Fi & America’s Fund and Vail Veterans Program in my humble opinion, is the joining of two veteran service organizations that epitomize selfless service,” wrote Greg Gadson, a retired U.S. Army Colonel. “Born from the roots of humble patriots, the merging of these organizations will create synergy that will benefit even more warriors and their families. These organizations have similar beginnings, grassroots organizations that harness the energy of our patriotic communities — this will be a phenomenal merger.”
While Jensen is enthusiastic about the future of the groups caring for injured veterans, she acknowledged that she’s had some tearful moments.
“It’s my baby, and I’m handing it over,” Jensen said. “But it’s to the best organization we could pair with.”
3,500: Approximate number of veterans and aided by the Vail Veterans Program since 2004
26,000: Service members aided since 2004 by Semper Fi & America’s Fund.
$17 million: Raised by Vail Veterans Program since 2004.
$241 million: Assistance provided since 2004 by Semper Fi & America’s Fund.