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Townsquare Media Cares

tsm-cares-promoI am excited to announce a new and exciting effort of Townsquare Media.  Effective today, we have created Townsquare Cares, a national not-for-profit, whose mission will be to help the families of military personnel who are currently deployed.  Townsquare Cares will focus on the families who must deal with all of the stress and resource constraints because their family member has chosen to serve in our nation’s military.  The young men and women who choose to serve our nation as Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen deserve our nation’s gratitude and, as such, it is incumbent on all of us to make their military experience as great as it can be.  A critical part of that is to make sure that their family is well taken care of while they are serving the country.

Thanks to Townsquare Media’s radio portfolio of more than 170 local stations, the station’s companion websites, our national digital properties and events, combined with our community outreach across the nation, we are able to work hand-in-hand with local charities and service organizations to reach those to whom we all owe our deepest gratitude.

I believe that undertaking such a project is a great thing for Townsquare Media, for our local communities and for our nation.  I have been thinking since we started Townsquare Media that we should do something to “give back”.  One issue that arises in such endeavors is that there are a lot of very worthy causes that deserve our efforts.  Children at risk, education, poor elderly, and various illnesses all come to mind.  While visiting our West Texas markets late last year, one of our colleagues suggested that since we have so many military bases within our markets, we should think about ways to help the military personnel and their families.  After doing research, I enthusiastically agree.  There is a huge need to help the families of soldiers currently in the military and serving our nation. The work of war is very much a family affair. Nearly 6 in 10 of the troops deployed today are married, and nearly half have children. Those families — more than a million of them since 2001 — have borne the brunt of the psychological and emotional strain of deployments.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent The New York Times article on the needs of military families: “Life changed for Shawn Eisch with a phone call last January. His youngest brother, Brian, a soldier and single father, had just received orders to deploy from Fort Drum, N.Y., to Afghanistan and was mulling who might take his two boys for a year. Shawn volunteered.  So began a season of adjustments as the boys came to live in their uncle’s home here.   Joey, the 8-year-old, got into fistfights at his new school.  His 12-year-old brother, Isaac, rebelled against their uncle’s rules.  And Shawn’s three children quietly resented sharing a bedroom, the family computer and, most of all, their parents’ attention with their younger cousins. The once comfortable Eisch farmhouse suddenly felt crowded.  “It was a lot more traumatic than I ever pictured it, for them,” Shawn, 44, said. “And it was for me, too.”   And there are many other stories – of pain, anger, depression and more.

We all know, and research has shown, that a large proportion of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan do or will experience PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and various other mental health problems.  The psychosocial burden on families of deployed military personnel is less well understood and is greater than that of previous deployments, given current service conditions.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no “front line” – all deployed forces, at all times, are subject to combat, insurgent attack and terrorism.

As a New England Journal of Medicine study noted: “Besides fear for the safety of their loved ones, spouses of deployed personnel often face challenges of maintaining a household, coping as a single parent, and experiencing marital strain due to a deployment-induced separation of an uncertain duration. Studies examining the effects of deployment on spouses have shown increased rates of marital dissatisfaction, unemployment, divorce, and declining emotional health.

Clearly, the need is great.  Siblings, grandparents and others have become surrogate parents.  Spouses struggle with loneliness and stress.  Young kids often feel confused, angry, abandoned and depressed during the long separations.  All family members feel the void combined with the fear about what could happen in the distant war. 

Research has shown that children in military families were more likely to report anxiety than children in civilian families. The longer a parent had been deployed in the previous three years, the researchers found, the more likely the children were to have had difficulties in school and at home.  In addition, wives of deployed soldiers sought mental health services more often than other Army wives.  The issues that these spouses need to deal with include depressive disorders, sleep disorders, anxiety and acute cases of stress.   And, as expected, the longer the deployments lasted, they were also more likely to report mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and sleep disorder.

What we will do – kinds of services we will try to provide:

That is incumbent on us to decide.  We can spend the foundation’s money in almost any way that helps these families so we can design programs ourselves.  Maybe we want to pay for a child psychologist in a particular city to help the children of a unit that has had a particularly long deployment.  Or maybe we want to throw a party for the spouses and kids so they can have a fun filled evening without stress.  Or, maybe we want to sponsor bringing a clown or a comedian or a music artist to a military base or a place where we invite military families.  Maybe we:

-          Send “support boxes” to our men and women in uniform

-          Support wounded soldiers and their families with encouragement and needed items, especially those with no support

-          Fund support groups and social networks for military families

-          Scholarships and education support for children of deployed soldiers

-          Cash assistance for childcare, short term housing, food, etc…

-          Employment assistance

-          Financial counseling and pay assistance

-          Sponsor events to help children of deployed soldiers put together packages to send to their parents

-          Assistance for recreation or entertainment

The point is that we will need to do some research on what is needed in specific communities and then figure out how we can maximize our help.  We can do these things directly or thru other, local organizations that have a particular expertise in helping military families. 

What you can do – things our Company and stations can do:

I want to stress that participating in Townsquare Cares is neither a corporate mandate nor anything that is required of any employee or any of our markets.  Each station, employee and market can decide if and, if so, how you want to help this effort.  You are all more creative than I am so, in that sense, the sky is the limit but some ways we have thought our Company could help:

-          Link on our websites to the Townsquare Cares website

-          Write stories on our websites about military families and their needs – ideally with a local flavor – and then reference Townsquare Cares as one way to help

-          Partner with local clients to sponsor an event or fundraiser

-          Events with a portion of proceeds going to Townsquare Cares

-          Radiothons, either instead of ones we currently do or possibly in addition to

-          PSAs and use of on air or online promotional inventory

-          Personally meet groups of soldiers at the airport when they returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and encouraged our listeners to line the streets to welcome them home

-          Create on-air “Soldier of the Week” recognition to spotlight an outstanding soldier 52 times a year and rewarded them with gift certificates and promotions from local merchants (e.g. Sandals Family Vacation or local Seize the Deal discounts).  We could even get this sponsored.

-          Sell Townsquare Cares merchandise (first we need to create some)

-          Give free admission to military families to some events

-          Promote concerts on military bases

What else – you tell us!  We can either do these ourselves or partner with our clients, our competitors or local organizations to raise money for this effort.  If you want to do some event to raise funds specifically for military families within your community, that is possible as well.

If we partner with other organizations, who might that be?

-          Operation Home Front – National organization that provides assistance at the local level offering auto repair, food assistance, vision care, community events, etc. 

-          Betterment of Single Soldiers (BOSS) – National military organization for single soldiers that provides recreational and community activities for active military.  (e.g car shows, fishing trips, home for the holidays events, etc)

-          Military Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) – National military organization for each branch of the armed services that provides free or discounted recreation services to military personnel and the families (e.g. dining, pools, bowling, etc)

-          Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) – National military organization charged with providing discounted merchandise and services through direct partnerships with brands and also charged with supplementing direct funding for the armed forces.  Has contributed more than 2.2 Billion in funds towards these goals over the last 10 years

-          Organizations housed and sponsored by local military bases

How will we be organized and decide how to allocate money:

The Townsquare Cares Foundation has secured seed funding of $200,000 from our senior management team.  We are not using corporate funds to launch this effort.  We need to raise money in order to be able to give the money away.  This effort will only be successful to the extent you, our employees, want it to be so. 

Our intention is to form a committee of employees who will help oversee the Foundation, guide our mission, help develop fundraising programs and help decide how to allocate the funds.  Our plan is to run the Foundation with very little corporate expense so that almost all of the money raised will go to our cause.

In conclusion, I am very excited to launch this effort.  I believe that this is good for our company to support our local communities and the families of deployed soldiers, and not only where there are military bases in our markets.  How successful this will be is in large part up to you.  It is up to us how much of a difference we can and want to make.  Thank you.

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