Former U.S. Navy Blue Angels pilots are supporting a residential treatment center for Pensacola-area female veterans.
Pathways will house up to 12 veterans and provide counseling, addiction treatment, job training and other services for more female veterans.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Mike Campbell, who flew with the Blue Angels in 1987 and 1988, is the president of the Blue Angels Foundation. The foundation is the charitable arm of the Blue Angels Association, an exclusive organization of former Navy and Marine Corps pilots who have flown with the Pensacola Naval Air Station-based Blue Angels.
Campbell said the Pensacola project is part of the foundation’s ongoing national effort to expand its reach and help as many veterans as possible.
“This is specifically for women, and it is here in Pensacola where our team is based. It seemed like a natural project for us to support,” Campbell said.
The foundation also helps to support Freedom Station in San Diego, a home that helps wounded warriors with their recovery, and other projects aimed at helping veterans nationwide.
The foundation is among many groups working to address the alarming suicide rate among veterans.
“The suicide rate is extremely high, some say as high as 22 a day and others say 21 or 20,” Campbell said. “That is more than 8,000 veterans a year committing suicide.”
Campbell’s ambitious goal is for the foundation to raise as much as $1 million a year to provide counseling and treatment services emphasizing suicide prevention.
Donating to programs like Pathways for Change in the Pensacola area is an important step in that direction, he said.
“Having a presence here in the Pensacola area will be helpful because the community and the team have been tied together for so many years. All of us feel like Pensacola is our second home,” said Campbell, who encouraged supporters to check out the foundation’s website and consider making a donation.
Connie Bookman, Pathways for Change founder, said she reached out to the Blue Angels Foundation for help after reading a news article about the foundation.
The foundation’s support is fantastic news for the program, she said.
“I cannot even talk about it without crying. I am just so overwhelmed by the power they bring to this project,” she said.
Pathways for Change started the program for female veterans with a $200,000 grant from the Dugas Family Foundation, which was created by the family behind Dollar General Stores. The Dugas Family Foundation has agreed to match the Blue Angels Foundation donation — bringing the total donation amount to $80,000.
Bookman said the money will allow Pathways to begin serving veterans on July 3.
“I imagine all 12 beds will be full within the first couple of months,” she said.