Writing the CEO of a company is always a long shot, but Jessica Maddin, 27, took a chance. Maddin, with the help of 24 Hour Fitness’s CEO, Carl Liebert founded “Jessica’s Hope Project,” a non-profit organization that focuses on sending fitness-oriented care packages overseas to all branches of the military. To date, “Jessica’s Hope Project” has sent over 400 care packages overseas.
After losing her best friend to suicide last February, Maddin wanted something positive to focus on. “I have been raised to be volunteer-oriented,” she said. “Volunteering made me feel good. I was tired of being sad.”
The inspiration for the project came from a friend’s brother who had recently gotten back from Iraq. Maddin, wanting to help soldiers, went on anysolider.com, where there are wish lists from soldiers. There she noticed many requests for supplements.
Maddin, an employee of 24 Hour Fitness for almost two years, knew that 24 Hour Fitness had their own line of supplements and wondered if they could help.
“I drafted an e-mail to our CEO, Carl, asking for donations to send to soldiers and thought even if I don’t hear back at least I tried,” Maddin said. “Ten days later, $17,000 worth of stuff showed up on my doorstep.”
Being a college student, Maddin has limited income and so she began raising money to send the packages over seas. Each flat rate shipping box costs $13. She raised enough money to send the first 25 care packages containing Muscle Milk, vitamins and protein bars. A handwritten letter is also included in every box thanking the soldiers for their service and letting them know someone cares, Maddin said.
Since then, Liebert has sponsored “Jessica’s Hope Project” and helped it become a 501 c 3 non-profit organization. He also has agreed to donate to the project every month — $3,500 retail value of supplements.
“I was lucky enough to meet Carl last November,” Maddin said. “He was getting together when managers in the area and he invited me to speak and talk about ‘Jessica’s Hope Project.’ Carl Liebert has definitely changed my life forever thanks to his huge heart and overwhelming generosity. Jessica’s Hope Project would not exist without him. I never imagined that I would have my own non-profit organization and I am eternally grateful to him for all that he has done for me.”
Liebert himself is a Navy veteran, a fact Maddin was unaware of when she asked for donations. “I think that’s part of why he is so generous,” she said.
According to the United States Marine Corps., the average deployed military individual loses 50 pounds of body weight per deployment. “Our goal is to keep this from happening by providing protein bars, muscle milk and vitamin supplements to as many military individuals as possible to maintain their physical well being and mental sharpness,” Maddin wrote on the project’s website.
The project’s headquarters currently reside in Maddin’s grandmother’s living room. Maddin hopes one day to have her own space and be able to get more consistent help with putting the packages together — most of the time she does it on her own.
“Everything is worth it to hear how appreciative the soldiers are,” Maddin said. She receives e-mails, letters and Facebook posts from soldiers all the time saying thanks and what a great care package they received.
Visit www.jessicashopeproject.org to read more about Maddin and her organization. Donations to cover the cost of shipping can be made via PayPal on the website.
By Ali Cicerchi