Nick Booth, CEO, True Patriot Love Foundation, Canada. 

A Conversation with Nick Booth and Mélange’s Editor, Fred Maahs, Jr., 

“My first 18 years were spent in a very small rural community about 10 miles from Cambridge, England. My father had served in WW2 in the British Army and afterwards was part of a Government scheme to allocate small parcels of land to Veterans to farm. It was tough to make a living but a great childhood in that my parents were at home all day and I got to grow up in the countryside. I was then the first person in my family to go to University when I went to Loughborough University of Technology and did a BA in Business Administration with Modern Language (German).

My first job was as Graduate Trainee at the UK’s largest child protection organization – the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). It was interesting to come from business school and use this training in the voluntary sector but also unique because no UK NGO’s had previously offered graduate programs and I was to my knowledge the first in the UK, potentially globally, to have this opportunity.

After spending 21 years working to raise funds and combat child abuse at the NSPCC (my first organization which is pretty rare these days!), I left the UK for the USA, where I served as Senior Vice President at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. This was where I had the privilege to work with Fred and Comcast. BBBS is an amazing organization and a mission I love (in fact I recently established BBBS in the UK for the first time and am now Chairman!).

After three years in Philadelphia I was asked to return to the UK to be founding CEO of The Royal Foundation – the new philanthropic vehicle for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. This was an extraordinary opportunity as there had never before been a grant making foundation in the Royal Family so to be asked to set it up for the future King and his family was a personal privilege and honor. I oversaw Their Royal Highnesses’ charitable activities for seven years including, for example, establishing the Invictus Games, a global conservation campaign called United for Wildlife, and the recent mental health campaign Heads Together which has had a very wide impact in tackling the stigma around mental illness. In 2019 I returned to North America to become CEO of True Patriot Love Foundation, Canada’s main charitable organization supporting its military and veteran community.”  ~ Nick Booth

Fred Maahs, Jr: “I first met Nick Booth in April, 2008 when he was new the Vice President of Philanthropy for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America leading their national fundraising efforts. He moved from the UK to take on this role after serving more than ten years as the campaign director for The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the largest social service organization in the UK. While there, he led its Full Stop Appeal, a campaign aimed at putting an end to child cruelty, raising over $540 million. The Full Stop campaign is the most successful in British history.  Our meeting happened when I worked for Comcast Corporation, headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, serving as the Senior Director of Community Investment, leading the company’s national strategic partnerships in their philanthropic efforts.  Nick and I worked on creating what would become the nation’s largest workplace mentoring program.  His years of leadership, combined with a gentle and focused approach, helped to establish a national partnership between Comcast and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America which continues today.

Both of us have moved on to other opportunities since then, and Nick has even worked for Royalty!  It was great to reconnect with an old friend for this interview.  Thank you, Nick, for your exemplary career of making life better for others!” ~ Fred Maahs, Jr.

Why did you have an interest to work with an organization that helps veterans and their families?

I first became involved with the military community whilst at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS) when we built ‘Operation Big’ with the US Department of Defense. This provided children of deployed military with a mentor during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. At The Royal Foundation, working with Prince William and Prince Harry (who both served in the British military) I saw first-hand the transformational effect that sport and other programs can have in supporting Veterans’ recovery from injury and illness so am thrilled to have the opportunity now to do similar work in Canada – a country that has fought bravely alongside the USA and UK in many conflicts from WW1, through WW2 and Korea and more recently in Afghanistan.

What do you consider is the biggest challenge facing veterans today?

(a). Apathy of the general population – as the Iraq and Afghan wars get further into the past the public is losing sight of the sacrifices made by those who served and their ongoing struggles with post military life.

(b). Wellbeing/mental health – many of the scars of combat, both physical and mental, will last years into the future and need long term support.

(c). Building resiliency of military and Veteran families – it is often said that ‘families serve too’ and the rates of mental health challenges in our military spouses and children are much higher than the general population. They face significant geographic and social isolation and often financial and health challenges as a result of their spouse’s service in the military.

What does the Canadian government do to support returning veterans?  What could be better or different?

(a). The Canadians have established the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group which is doing great work to close the gap between the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada (i.e. bridging serving military and Veterans). This is a model which could be replicated in other nations.

(b). There are 32 Military Family Resource Centres on bases and wings across the country, and these also now offer a Veteran Family Program in an effort to support eligible Veterans in their transition alongside those still in uniform.

(c). As Canada’s national foundation for the military, True Patriot Love remains committed to working with our government partners to build and improve collaboration between the state, private and charitable sectors and to raise awareness and advocate on behalf of the military community within the general population.

What other organizations do you partner with to help make True Patriot Love successful?

True Patriot Love is exploring a number of national strategic collaborations including with the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group, its dedicated Soldier On program for ill and injured Veterans and the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Service. Our community-based partnerships across the country allow us to understand and develop positive impact in all regions of the country. We are also proud of our partnership with the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research which does leading edge research with Universities across Canada. Recently we have begun to explore international collaborations with like-minded organizations in the USA, UK and other countries.

Share with me some examples of events that are conducted to help support veterans and their families.

(a). True Patriot Love led the 2017 Invictus Games in Canada and our support of Team Canada continues for all future Invictus and Warrior games events.

(b). True Patriot Love expeditions – we take teams of ill and injured Veterans on life changing journeys to challenging locations to build resiliency, mentorship and awareness.

(c). We launched the Captain Nichola Goddard Leadership Series and For Her Country podcast highlighting the role of women in the military. (Named after Captain Goddard who was the first woman Canadian military member ever killed in combat, in Afghanistan).

(d). A new text-based support service, run by Toronto’s Kids Help Phone, to support children in military families across Canada.

(e). We are exploring ways to leverage technology to support military families in rural environments and now, in social isolation as a result of COVDI-19. For example, we recently funded a program providing virtual mental health programming for families in Eastern Quebec.

Speaking to our readers, what is the most important way to support True Patriot Love Foundation?

There are many ways to support those who serve – raise awareness of the ongoing needs of our military, show your gratitude directly when you meet those in uniform, educate your children on the sacrifice made by those who serve on their behalf and, if your resources allow, to donate to help make these programs possible by visiting www.truepatriotlove.com

Approximately how many veterans do you help each year? 

On average, 3000 families. In 2019, we supported over 3200. And, I would assume many of these veterans return from service with some type of disability.  What are the most predominant disabilities these veterans are faced with? Yes, unfortunately that is true. Injuries/disabilities can be invisible (traumatic brain injuries; plus operational stress injuries which encompass more than just PTSD and also includes depression and anxiety, for example) and visible physical injuries/disabilities from blasts, combat wounds or even accidents. It is important to continue our work to remove any stigma surrounding disability in the military community and this is also part of our mission; and I believe this can have very positive impacts on the wider disability movement such has been seen through the success of the Paralympics and the Invictus Games.

Veterans who return from service with some type of disability are especially in need of support services.  Do you partner with other organizations to help veterans with disabilities?

Yes, as a grant maker we identify and fund many community programs across the country. The strength of the military charitable sector in Canada is rooted in a deep understanding of the impact of injury due to service – the organizations we partner with are actively engaged in providing support to disabled and ill and injured Veterans – for example Soldier On, the Adaptive Sports Foundation in Quebec, Veterans Transition Network all provide support to those with physical or mental challenges (to name a few).

Where do you want to take True Patriot Love?  Any new things on the horizon?

We continue to explore new ways of supporting those who have served and who may need help with the recovery and transition to civilian life. An interesting new area is the creative arts which shows a lot of promise in engaging and inspiring injured veterans through acting, music, art, craft etc. We hope to pilot some new programs in the months ahead.

We also think there is more to be done to mobilise support in the corporate sector for hiring Veterans and military spouses – not because they need charity but because they are talented and resilient members of our community with great skills that businesses require.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your work on behalf of veterans and their families?

As we go through the pandemic many military and veteran families face particular challenges through pre-existing physical and mental health conditions, poor access to healthcare and social or geographic isolation. This is a priority for us right now.

On a personal note, what do you like to do in your spare time?  Any interesting hobbies or sports? 

As I navigate my own mid-life crisis (!) I try and pretend I am still young and fit. In 2017 I ran the Boston and London Marathons in the same week (six days apart with a transatlantic flight in the middle) but did it with two injured Veterans from the USA and UK, Ivan Castro and Karl Hinett. It was one of the most inspiring experiences of my whole life, sharing the pain and pleasure of running two times 26 miles with Ivan who is blind from an explosion in Iraq, and Karl who experienced severe life threatening burns also in Iraq. Our goal was to show what is possible post injury as well as raise awareness and funds for mental health support for Veterans. We met some of those impacted by the Boston marathon bombing and even got to throw the first pitch at the Red Sox! Truly a wonderful week.

www.truepatriotlove.com