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USO Lifts Spirits of Military Families With Donated Tickets

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

By Joseph Andrew Lee 

USO centers around the world receive thousands of donated tickets to concerts and sporting events every year from season ticketholders and donors who wish to show their gratitude to men and women in uniform.

“Tickets allow people to experience things that they would not normally have the means or opportunity to do, such as an NFL game or the National Symphony Orchestra,” said Susan Baker, program and administrative coordinator at USO of Metropolitan Washington. “Not only do the tickets benefit the recipient, but the ability to donate the tickets and know that military members use them gives the donors great joy.”

The USO of Metropolitan Washington receives so many donated tickets that it developed a unique database to sort and distribute them to single soldiers, couples and families. In 2012, USO Metro gave away 28,228 donated tickets worth $800,324.

“We have an email database of over 6,800 active duty military members and dependents in the D.C. metro region,” Baker said. “When we get tickets we send out an email with information about the tickets and instructions on how to obtain them. Most times it is a drawing system and the email will contain the link to sign up along with the time the drawing entry closes. After the close of the entry period the names are downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet and each person is assigned a number. We use a random number generator to select winners and they are notified by email.”

Because of the high volume of troops and families served at their 10 centers, USO Metro devised a system. For other USOs, a simpler method of ticket dissemination is used.

In 2009, military spouse and mother Jessica Nash was exhausted after driving two hours from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., to drop off her mother at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. She and her 4-year-old daughter needed a rest before getting back on the road, so they visited USO Missouri.

Upon their arrival, donated St. Louis Rams tickets were sprawled across the front desk. Jessica began scanning the teams and dates on tickets. She and her husband aren't Rams fans, but she thought the Seattle Seahawks – who are in the same division as the Rams – would be playing in St. Louis on Nov. 29. Sure enough, a pair of Rams-Seahawks tickets was right in front of her.

When Jessica found out they were free and for the taking, she was floored and couldn’t wait to get home to show her husband.

Her husband is an active duty sailor and Washington state native, serving as an equipment operator instructor at the naval attachment at Fort Leonard Wood. When Jessica got home, she opened up her purse and showed him the tickets.

“He looked at me like he had just won the lottery," she said. "He’s a big Seattle fan, so he was so happy.”

The tickets gave Jessica and her husband an opportunity to get out of the house and do something for themselves.

“They were great seats and made for a wonderful surprise to bring home to my husband," she said. "It was fantastic. A really, really, nice surprise by both the USO and the person who donated the tickets.”

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Photo caption: Twenty service members and their families from Ft. Meade and Joint Base Andrews joined USO of Metropolitan Washington for a Redskins game last October. (Photo by USO of Metropolitan Washington) 

Shop USO Wishbook to donate funds that help more troops and families enjoy the support, programs and services that the USO offers worldwide. 


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