By Danielle DeSimone
Orlan Boston is no stranger to giving back.
The global accounts excellence and innovation leader and global life sciences client service partner at EY (formerly Ernst & Young) has been a member of several nonprofit organizations’ boards across the country, including The Trevor Project, NYC LGBTQ Center’s Board of Directors and the USO.
But as his birthday rolled around again earlier this month, Boston decided he wanted to take his dedication to one of the charitable causes in his life a step further and he launched his first-ever Facebook Birthday Fundraiser benefiting, to our joy, the USO.
Boston had heard about the success that other friends had had in fundraising for causes via Facebook and thought it would be a great way to engage his friends in a cause that is near and dear to his heart – military service member and their families.
“I also thought this would be a wonderful way to get them involved with the USO,” he said.
Boston set the challenging goal of raising $5,000 by his birthday, accompanied by a touching message on Facebook on why the USO was important to him. In just one day, his friends and family raised $2,347. By his birthday on September 3, he had met and surpassed his goal, raising $5,173 for the USO.
“I was touched to see and hear from many people who donated to the fundraiser, who were friends we were stationed with, fellow USO Board members and staff, family members and even good friends from Spain who I never would’ve met without having been stationed there through the Armed Forces,” said Boston.
Boston’s efforts in fundraising, as well as the immediate and warm response from his friends and family, showed the impact that our communities can have in changing the lives of our service members, just through the simple click of a button.
To thank his Facebook community for their generosity and to make even more of an impact, Boston will be matching his Facebook friends’ donations – effectively doubling the money raised to an incredible total of $10,346.
Growing Up A Navy Brat with the USO
As a military brat who grew up alongside the U.S. Navy, Boston explained that choosing the USO as the beneficiary of his Facebook Birthday Fundraiser was an easy decision.
His father, Bernard Boston, enlisted and served in the Navy for 30 years and retired as a chief warrant officer. As is the case with most military brats, Boston, along with his sister Gladys, spent a large portion of his life growing up overseas on naval bases. In fact, he was born in Rota, Spain, and his family was later stationed on Sigonella, Sicily, in addition to other duty stations.
“My experience as a military brat really formed who I am,” Boston said. “We have unique experiences growing up abroad, being abroad together … being ambassadors for the United States abroad at a young age. And so those are the skills and a mindset that were instilled in me early-on, which I very much carried forward into the rest of my life and career.”
However, he admits that the positive lessons he learned as military brat did not always come easily.
Military brats live far from friends and family in unfamiliar environments, they move every few years, are constantly changing schools and must watch as their parents deploy, all of which can be challenging and take its toll.
“They always say that the hardest job in the Navy is being a military spouse, and my mom Maria can certainly attest to that,” said Boston. “But I’ve always said the second-hardest is being a military kid.”
That’s exactly why the USO focuses on supporting service members and their families – military kids, like Boston, included.
From Military Kid to USO Board of Governors
Although the USO plays an important role in Boston’s life today, his first memories of the nonprofit are from years ago as a child, when his family was stationed in Rota, Spain.
He recalls a few times when actress Ann Jillian and NFL player Steve Grogan of the New England Patriots were on a USO tour and came to visit him and fellow students at his school on base.
“It was the highlight of our year,” said Boston. “It was wonderful because it made us feel special, it made us feel like we were not forgotten. It was just a really nice gesture that was made possible by the USO, and those memories stayed with me for a long time.”
The USO’s positive impact on Boston’s childhood clearly made a good impression. Years later, when former President Barack Obama appointed Boston to the USO Board of Governors in 2014, the then-principal at EY accepted the position with great enthusiasm.
“Having been a military brat abroad, I can bring that perspective into the board room and to the USO,” Boston said, reflecting on his years on the USO Board. “And that is exactly what I’ve done over the last five years.”
During his tenure on the USO Board, Boston has had the chance to reconnect with his military roots and even returned to Spain in October 2017 to celebrate the opening of the USO Rota location. During his visit, he spent time with military kids at Rota DGF Elementary and High School – the same school he once attended – and talked to them about their shared experiences of being Navy brats.
“I couldn’t help but think that things had sort of come full-circle, so that was really special,” Boston said. “I am incredibly grateful to President Obama for providing me with this opportunity to serve our country and its military. It has been the greatest honor of my life.”
Looking back on why he has continued to serve on the USO Board of Governors and start a Facebook Birthday Fundraiser for the USO, Boston says his motivation comes back to one person: his father.
“My re-engagement with the USO over the past few years is really my way of saying ‘thank you’ to the Armed Forces and of honoring my father’s service,” Boston said.
“I would encourage people considering donating their Facebook Birthday Fundraiser to the USO to do it. This is a nice, easy way to say ‘thank you’ to our men and women who serve – that 1% of the country that protects the other 99%. It’s a way to acknowledge their contributions and sacrifices on behalf of the country, and to fundraise for an organization that supports military service men and women, and their family members, around the world.”
Now, much like his visit to Rota, the money Boston raised will also go full circle, making it possible for the USO to give back to today’s military children and their service members, just like Boston and his family.