For as far back as he can recall South Jersey native Todd L. Sherman has felt strongly patriotic. So much so, that after graduating from West Chester University in 1990 with a degree in finance and management, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. Due to a minor medical technicality, Sherman was found ineligible—his lifelong mission thwarted. Yet that didn’t alter his resolve or the patriotism that runs deep in his veins. Instead, he shifted his focus to finding a way to make a difference in the lives of military members and their families.
In 2015, Sherman channeled that passion when he founded The Patriot Fund, Inc., along with retired Maj. Gen. Steven J. Hashem and business owner/entrepreneur Joseph Caruso. Sherman is president of the 501©3 charitable organization; Hashem and Caruso are vice presidents. The Patriot Fund, Sherman explained, is run by a 15-member, all-volunteer, dedicated Board of Directors.
“The Patriot Fund is a fundraising community foundation,” said Sherman, 53, adding that its structure is similar to the United Way. “Our goal is to raise money, raise awareness, inspire people to give, aggregate that gift and ultimately distribute that money to veteran-focused charities that are not on the radar.” Since the fund’s inception, they have raised $1.1 million. And, according to Sherman, because they aren’t operational, funds raised can go directly to those in need. The beneficiaries/partner organizations are grateful. Sherman explained that it frees them from having to worry about fundraising; they can focus solely on their mission of helping veterans.
The fund has garnered support from a broad network of more than 30 corporations and businesses. And that continues to grow throughout the region and beyond.
Interestingly, the evolution of The Patriot Fund came about as a result of Sherman’s career as a financial advisor and his expertise in strategic philanthropy. As a senior partner of a wealth management team of the SSG Executive Advisory Group of Raymond James in Mount Laurel, Sherman often advises financially successful individuals on strategic, tax-advantageous ways to be charitable. Some of his clients, for example, may aspire to support the military but aren’t aware of the most efficient and effective ways to do so. Sherman is able to direct clients to help them achieve their goals, no matter what their desired charity may be.
Although Sherman has been a financial advisor for 27 years, he is the only member of his team with a specialization in strategic philanthropy. Through his profession, he met and became inspired by a colleague, former U.S. Navy SEAL Kyle Kroberger. “Hearing his stories and the articulation of the plight of veterans, I was motivated to make a difference,” said Sherman, who gained a deeper understanding of the multitude of issues veterans face when trying to re-enter and adjust to civilian life. “Kyle is an amazing asset and an inspiring individual.” Today, he serves on the fund’s Board and brings his first-hand insight regarding the needs of veterans.
And such needs, elaborated Sherman, run the gamut. Many are suffering silently with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); others have been denied veteran’s benefits; some are homeless, a scenario Sherman has witnessed with his own eyes. “You see these warriors who should be wearing medals on their chests and they’re living on the street,” said Sherman. “It’s shocking and unsettling.” Heaven on Earth for Veterans, one of their newest partner organizations, is helping to change this disturbing reality.
“We don’t just write a check and walk away,” said Sherman. “We feel we have a fiduciary responsibility to our donors. We follow through to make sure the funds we have given to organizations are being prudently allocated.” The commitment doesn’t stop there. Sherman and fellow board members keep an open dialogue and visit with the beneficiaries and veterans—though, over the past year, that has translated to lots of zoom calls.
Sherman is proud of the diverse organizations The Patriot Fund has been able to support. Another example is Project OVAT—helping one veteran at a time. “They have been extremely successful in assisting veterans in obtaining benefits from the Veteran’s Administration that were denied or diminished due to bureaucracy,” he said. In one instance, Project OVAT helped a veteran who had been out of the military for more than 20 years.
Quantum Leap Farm provides equine therapy as a way to heal veterans with PTSD and other hidden wounds of war. Sgt. Andrew Inman served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army, with two deployments to Iraq. Six of his comrades lost their lives. When Inman returned home, he struggled with night terrors and survivor’s guilt. “Quantum saved my life and I owe everything to them,” he said. “They taught me that giving back is the best form of medicine.”
PAWS Healing Heroes has also proven life-changing by providing service dogs to veterans in need. “This truly saves lives,” said Sherman. In fact, the fund will be presenting a veteran with a service dog this fall at The Patriot Invitational, an annual fundraising event.
The Invitational, elaborated Sherman, which will take place on October 10 and 11 at Laurel Creek Country Club in Mount Laurel, is not a typical golf tournament. Rather, it’s about supporting the cause and showing appreciation for donors. “People aren’t really signing up for the golf as they ordinarily might,” said Sherman, of the two-pronged event that kicks off with a Sunday evening dinner and continues the following day. “You are going to get a day like no other; it’s a very high-end, unique experience. We’re planning a nine-hole shootout with a $10,000 prize.”
Veterans are always an integral part of the day. They volunteer to handle a number of organizational and administrative tasks. “They often speak to the crowd, expressing gratitude,” said Sherman, adding that such sentiment really brings things full circle for donors.
Board member, Amy Osborn, of Cherry Hill, is vice president of private banking for Republic Bank, a premier sponsor of The Patriot Invitational. “It’s an awesome feeling to work for a company that values and appreciates America’s heroes just as much as I do,” said Osborn, who has supported veterans in a multitude of ways for nearly 30 years. A former Miss New Jersey in 1991, she created an entertainment troupe that performed at nursing homes and VA hospitals throughout the state. She was also the recipient of the New Jersey Department of Veterans Affairs’ James C. Gates award for helping veterans find gainful employment.
The Invitational, noted Sherman, has been so successful that the event will be expanding beyond the Delaware Valley. “We’ll be going national in the next 12 to 24 months,” he said, with plans to hold an Invitational in Arizona, Florida and perhaps Colorado.
The Patriot Fund has seen remarkable growth. In that vein, Sherman is incredibly pleased that they recently named retired U.S. Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Will Markham, as their executive director. A Silver Star medal recipient for his part in Operation Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001, Markham previously served as an advisor to The Patriot Fund’s board. “He has been and will always be an inspiring leader that can take our vision and make it a reality,” said Sherman. “Will also brings a wealth of professional expertise, having worked with charities with endowments greater than $150 million.”
Whether it’s matching a vet with a service dog, providing equine therapy, finding housing for the homeless or bolstering hope and healing to those with PTSD, for Sherman and his fellow board members, it’s about having the greatest impact and helping the greatest number of veterans as possible.
The most rewarding aspect of it all? “Seeing the look in the eyes of veterans as a result of our support,” said Sherman.
For more information visit http://patriotfundinc.org