Honoring legacy through Folds of Honor
Honor Their Sacrifice. Educate Their Legacy. That is the beautiful mission of Folds of Honor (FOH), a national nonprofit organization started by Lieutenant Colonel Dan Rooney, dedicated to providing educational assistance to dependents of those who sacrificed so much.
In 2007, after his second tour in Iraq, Rooney was traveling home to Grand Rapids, Michigan when he learned the body of a fallen service member, Corporal Brock Bucklin, was on his plane being accompanied home by Bucklin’s twin brother. Rooney witnessed the family, including the soldier’s 4-year-old son Jacob, accepting his body on the tarmac.
Rooney was overcome with grief for that family and the son he left behind. Right then and there, he knew he had to act. Rooney’s first fundraiser provided $8,500 for little Jacob and became the start of FOH.
In the years since, the organization has provided more than $200 million to 44,000 educational scholarships. It started with dependents of fallen or disabled military members, but in 2022, dependents of fallen or disabled first responders became eligible, too. The daughters of Zachary Parish, who was killed in the line of duty in Douglas County in 2017, were the first FOH scholarship recipients for a fallen first responder.
There are 31 chapters across the country, including two in Colorado. Douglas County native, Karenmarie Barker, became involved with FOH about six years ago after meeting Rooney. Her high-school-sweetheart husband, a retired Navy Seal and 100% disabled veteran, was deployed in more than 400 missions and 14 combats and has a traumatic brain injury. Their three children are scholarship recipients.
Barker was named regional impact officer for Colorado in 2022. “It’s an unbelievable organization. I’m blessed that they chose me,” she said. She organizes events and corporate speaking engagements, meets with scholarship recipient families, and more. She is a tremendous advocate for families like her own.
FOH events are full of red, white and blue.
“We love reaching out into the community. Everyone feels so patriotic after attending an event,” said Barker. Golfing and country music are always on the list of happenings. A recent high school football matchup between Ponderosa and Legend High Schools honored military and first responder families, including the father of one of the players who as a policeman, lost a limb after being run over during the Denver Nuggets parade. More than $16,000 was raised for FOH scholarships.
The scholarships help bridge the gap (up to $5,000 per student, per year) for full-time dependents in K-12 private school, college and graduate programs. In 2023-2024, more than 9,000 scholarships were awarded nationwide, with 159 recipients in Colorado – for a total of $750,000.
Applications are open February 1 through March 31 each year and are reviewed and granted at the end of July. Students must be enrolled full time.
Many events are being planned for 2024 and all are welcome to get involved and give back to families who gave so much. Follow @foldsofhonorcolorado on Instagram, visit denver.foldsofhonor.org or contact Karenmarie Barker at email@example.com to learn more. Volunteers and donations are always needed and appreciated.
By Elean Gersack; photos courtesy of Karenmarie Barker