By Stevie Vallellanes
Ever since I was little, I have had a passion for helping others and making people smile. I was also raised surrounded by many sports fans. I have known since high school that I wanted to combine the two for my career, but I never knew how. It wasn’t until college when I joined the student run public relations agency, Hawk Communications, at Montclair State University where I finally saw the connection.
Since the start of 2020, my classmates and I have had the privilege of working with an organization that allows our veterans to come together and reintegrate into society. The New Jersey Warriors are a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that provides disabled servicemen and servicewomen the opportunity to rehab through hockey. They are supported by the New Jersey Devils, USA Hockey, and various community partners.
Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and I was excited to be able to help them for another semester. This semester was a little different for me because I was appointed account lead. The role allowed me to develop a handful of skills and help our warriors tell their stories.
Since the organization has an amazing mission, Ted Curtin, Executive Vice President of the Warriors, wanted us to place earned media. The team dove head first into work, excited to see where the semester would take us. We began promoting and pitching our #Warriors22 campaign which spoke to the unacceptable number of veteran suicides that happen daily. We reached out to what felt like every person in the metropolitan area to cover this story, but because of the current media climate, we weren’t having any luck. With the election and COVID-19 being covered by every outlet, it was hard to grab the attention of reporters and was discouraging some of the team.
It wasn’t until one of my team members reached out to Lisa Rozner from CBS on FaceBook that we were finally able to hear back. We were elated that we were finally going to help these veterans tell their story. It took a few weeks of planning, but on November 11th (Veterans Day) the veterans took to the ice at the Prudential Center and CBS was there to capture it.
As posts began to circulate online, a reporter from Sports Illustrated reached out and expressed her interest in telling the story because she has had some of her immediate family members serve. I immediately connected her to Curtin who helped record and shoot the interview just in time to air on Veterans Day.
This taught me that if you truly want something you need to work hard. We took every angle we could to get a response and it paid off. Through email, Instagram DM’s, LinkedIn connections, the team and I reached out to anyone who would listen. It taught us to be persistent and not to be afraid to be “pushy” because if I have learned anything this semester is that in order to hear back you must keep pushing on.
I am thankful to have worked for such an amazing organization with an equally as amazing team. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to have worked with. I am also very thankful for Hawk Communications because it has allowed me to finally experience what I have always dreamed of since I was a kid.