Carry The Load honors the sacrifices made by our military, veterans, first responders, and their families. Stephanie Wilcox at WFAA and Renee Cossman with Carry The Load explain how it has grown over the past 10 years to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day.
While Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer, the real meaning of the holiday sometimes gets lost in the three-day weekend and all of its festivities. Frustrated with this, Navy SEAL veteran Clint Bruce left a Memorial Day party and went for a walk. There, he met a fellow veteran, who asked him “who are you carrying?”
That question led to the creation of Carry The Load, a non-profit organization that provides an active way to honor the sacrifices made by our military, veterans, first responders, and their families. It started in 2011 as a 20-hour Memorial Day March in Dallas and has quickly grown into a national 32-day campaign called Memorial May. With 70 rallies in 46 states, Carry The Load also has a national relay team that walks more than 15,000 miles across the country.
“In the beginning, Carry The Load was built solely for awareness,” explains says Renee Cossman, Communications Director, Carry the Load. “But after the first year, we wanted to grow this movement beyond Dallas.”
That’s where WFAA comes into play. In creating awareness, TEGNA’s Dallas affiliate promotes Carry The Load both on-air and digitally, with PSAs, appearances on Good Morning Texas, in news segments, :30-second spots, sponsorship promos, and more.
“From Day One, WFAA has always been the most genuine organization,” says Cossman. “And it’s everyone, it’s leadership, it’s reporters, the people in the back office. It’s pretty incredible how they’ve embraced the cause. The people in the Dallas area have gotten to know Carry The Load and WFAA almost simultaneously.”
That’s because TEGNA’s values are aligned with Carry The Load, sometimes on a personal level. “I get emotional when I think about it,” says Stephanie Wilcox, Director of Community Marketing at WFAA, whose grandfather and great uncle both served.
“I think it’s important for people to know what freedoms you have and that there’s somebody who fought for those freedoms, no matter what side of the aisle you live on,” says Wilcox. “I think Carry The Load is a great way for Americans to come together in a really tumultuous climate that we’re in, to honor our nation’s heroes.”
Now in its 10th year, Carry The Load’s relationship with TEGNA has also grown, expanding its coverage of the marches all around Texas and across the country at KUSA in Denver, KPNX in Phoenix, CBS8 in San Diego, and KING5 in Seattle, just to name a few.
“WFAA is really great at generating awareness for us and they’ve been able to help us grow nationally too, introducing us to good partners down in San Antonio with KENS5 and up in Seattle with KING5,” says Cossman.
With that evolution also comes an influx of donations – Carry The Load has raised $28.6 million that goes toward its Awareness, Continuum of Care, and Education programs. This Memorial May, they’ve already hit the million-dollar mark of peer-to-peer funds raised, and 100 percent of that will go toward strengthening nationwide services that assist with the many challenges facing our military, veterans, first responders, and their families.
“WFAA’s involvement and their genuine passion for the mission, has helped make Carry The Load another Testament of how TEGNA is truly making a positive impact on people’s lives,” says Cossman.
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