In this episode, hosts Levi Sowers and Brandon Rea welcome Jim Ravella. He is vice president of Programs at the Gary Sinise Foundation. They discuss the mission, programs and initiatives offered at the Gary Sinise Foundation to support our nation’s defenders and their families.
Jim Ravella grew up in a family that served in the military. His father served as a pilot during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Jim graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering. He served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force for over 26 years.
Jim joined the Gary Sinise Foundation in May 2019 as vice president of Outreach. Jim’s position involves overseeing the day-to-day running of the Gary Sinise Foundation’s programmatic services. He also oversees the implementation of the foundation’s four pillar programs.
Jim is married to Ginger Gilbert Ravella, a Gold Star widow and ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation. She speaks nationally, raising awareness for Veterans and the families of our fallen. Jim and Ginger have seven children. They co-authored a book, “Hope Found,” about their experiences overcoming devastating loss and tragedy.
About the foundation
Award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise established the foundation. He has been an advocate for Veterans, active-duty military, first responders, and their families for 40 years. The foundation’s four programmatic pillars include the R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) Program, which builds 100% mortgage-free, specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded Veterans and first responders, and their families. The foundation tailors these “forever homes” to the specific needs of each wounded hero. They are specially designed to ease the daily challenges faced by disabled Veterans and first responders. This also helps their families, who sacrifice so much alongside them. The R.I.S.E. program also provides home modifications, mobility devices, and adapted vehicles to Veterans and first responders with injuries and medical conditions.
The Gary Sinise Foundation’s Community and Education Program bridges the gap between defender and civilian communities through initiatives that honor America’s heroes, both past and present, and inspire the next generation to do the same, such as the Foundation’s Soaring Valor initiative. Soaring Valor sends World War II Veterans to New Orleans to tour the National World War II Museum built in their honor while recording their oral histories for future generations. Through this initiative, high school students accompany World War II Veterans to learn history first-hand. This helps carry on their stories with a new appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation.
The foundation’s First Responders Outreach Program, its third key program, provides funding to first responder departments across the country for essential equipment, PPE, emergency relief, and training to ensure first responders are able to perform to the best of their abilities. Gary Sinise and the foundation’s long history supporting first responders began in the aftermath of 9/11. Gary’s support of the New York fire and police departments played a pivotal role in creating the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance. Their work continues to this day. In 2020 alone, the foundation’s First Responders Outreach program provided thousands of pieces of critical PPE and essential equipment. This helped first responders to fight COVID-19, serving a total population of 8.5 million.
The foundation’s last key program is the Relief and Resiliency Program. It supports Veterans, first responders, and their families through any hardships they face. They offer complete support before, during, and after the battle through flagship initiatives like Snowball Express. They provide year-round support to the families of fallen military heroes. The foundation’s Mental Wellness initiatives are under the Relief and Resilience Program umbrella. Those address the mental wellness needs of service members, first responders, and Veterans through many varying partnerships.
One of the latest mental health initiatives, which is discussed on this podcast, is the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network. This focuses on providing transformative care to Veterans and first responders suffering from TBI, post-traumatic stress, and substance abuse. The network also supports their families throughout the care process. The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network is the first comprehensive traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress network available free-of-charge to Veterans and first responders nationwide. They plan to establish 20 sites nationwide to serve thousands of Veterans and first responders.
Learn more about the Gary Sinise Foundation here and in the latest episode of the Vets First Podcast.
In case you missed it, previous Season 2 Vets First Podcast episodes:
Episode 1 | Episode 2| Episode 3| Episode 4 | Episode 5| Episode 6| Episode 7| Episode 8