Service members pose with their new sneakers and a sign that says "Thank you!"
Photo credit: Sneakers for Soldiers

In September, the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation launched a month of service for Delta Dental employees across the enterprise. Cheryl Leaman, an account manager, and Cynthia Pate, an executive assistant, from our Mechanicsburg office led the charge and organized a hugely successful fundraiser for Sneakers for Soldiers that ran from September through Veterans Day. The virtual fundraiser raised nearly $14,000, engaged more than 160 employees, and resulted in more than 180 pairs of new shoes for men and women stationed abroad. We chatted with Cynthia and Cheryl to learn a little more about their efforts.

Can you tell me a little bit about the fundraiser you organized for Sneakers for Soldiers?

Cynthia: Several of my colleagues from different teams in the Mid-Atlantic region had a goal to collaborate and organize regular volunteer opportunities for Delta Dental employees. Cheryl recommended Sneakers for Soldiers for consideration.   

Cheryl: The idea for Sneakers for Soldiers began with a phone call from a son to his parents while he was serving in Afghanistan, requesting a new pair of sneakers. Discovering that this critical item was not supplied to deployed soldiers, his parents formed Sneakers for Soldiers in April 2018.  It’s truly a remarkable story of people coming together quickly in support of our deployed troops.

What made you choose Sneakers for Soldiers?  

Cynthia: I wanted to support the sacrifices our troops overseas are making to ensure our freedom. But supporting this organization was also personal for me. I have family members who have served and are currently serving in the military as well as loved ones who have gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most importantly, after I viewed the Sneakers for Soldiers website and watched the video of the men and women of our armed services with their new shoes, I was moved to tears. I could see from the video and the pictures that receiving the athletic shoes from strangers across the United States meant something to them. I wanted to be a part of ensuring that they know they are not forgotten during this unprecedented time.

Cheryl: My son-in-law is a bomb demolition and disposal specialist with the Air Force. He deployed last fall to the Middle East and due to a clerical error on his paperwork, he was not issued new boots for his deployment. As parents, we were concerned that he was heading into potentially dangerous territory without the proper footwear, so we wired him the funds to make the purchase himself. Around that same time, I came across Sneakers for Soldiers on my social media, and its mission resonated with me –parents wanting to provide basic needs for their soldiers.

What was the response and participation like from your colleagues? 

Cynthia: I knew we had an awesome event planned that so many of our employees would be able to relate to. Immediately after we rolled out the event with a message from one of our vice presidents, I received notification of employees signing up for the virtual 5k run/walk/bike event. I was so excited and happy from all the responses! I feel having that leadership support is vital to our success. We offered several ways to support Sneakers for Soldiers and tied it in with physical activity as well as mindful reflection on the 19th anniversary of September 11. I believe that added saliency for my colleagues. Plus, who can’t relate to the great feeling we all have when we get a new pair of much-needed sneakers!  

Cheryl: I was thrilled that my coworkers stepped up to the challenge so quickly. Their response reminded me of the reason that the organization was originally started – that basic needs of our deployed women and men need to be met. 

Employees stand in front of the Delta Dental offices in Pennsylvania ready to walk to raise money for Sneakers for Soldiers
Pennsylvania employees are ready to walk and raise money for Sneakers for Soldiers

What does it mean to you to work for a company that emphasizes service – and provides employees time off for volunteering and matching for charitable contributions?  

Cynthia: I feel so proud, fortunate and inspired to work for a company that is so generous in corporate matching opportunities and enthusiastically encourages me and my fellow employees to get involved in causes that we embrace. The accessibility, flexibility, incentives and numerous volunteer opportunities provided to me by Delta Dental make it so easy for me to be a part of something that touches the lives of others. My life is enriched by these experiences.

Cheryl: Volunteerism is an important part of my personal life. I’ve been blessed in so many ways and believe that I’m called to give back – not just with monetary donations but with time and energy. Working for a company that not only emphasizes service, but provides employees with the means and time to do so makes us not just a work family, but part of a larger community that is making a difference in the lives of those in need.