UA BookStores co-brand with Operation Hat Trick to support veterans and wounded service members
The inside of the UA Bookstore, located in the Student Union Memorial Center. Shoppers can find a large variety of clothing, school supplies, reading books, and tons of Arizona memorabilia.
Students have likely noticed the mannequins in the University of Arizona BookStores decked out in camouflage and an “OHT” logo.
OHT stands for Operation Hat Trick, a nonprofit organization founded by Dot Sheehan in 2008. According to its website, Sheehan noticed that veterans returning from deployment wanted hats to cover their scars, burns and surgical incisions that resulted from their severe head trauma. OHT originally donated hats to service members and veterans, but the program has evolved. Now, it fundraises for the rehabilitation of military veterans and wounded service members.
Katherine Schenck, assistant director of trademarks and licensing for the bookstore, said the UA raised and donated $14,500 to the Fisher House of Tucson through its partnership with Operation Hat Trick in 2018.
“Specifically, with Arizona, we partner with Operation Hat Trick and we co-brand merchandise, so shirts, hats, sweatshirts, everything,” Schenck said. “It’s got the University of Arizona logo and the Operation Hat Trick logo. Part of the money raised by selling this product is donated back to Operation Hat Trick, and then Operation Hat Trick donates on the University’s behalf.”
Since it was founded, OHT has partnered with athletic associations, such as the NHL and MLB, and with colleges across the country. Sheehan determines the beneficiary of the funds raised through the sale of OHT-sponsored products. She came to the UA last year to do just that.
“Last year was the first year that we really did a lot with Operation Hat Trick, and we didn’t know where we wanted the money to go,” Schenck said. “We knew we wanted to stay in Tucson so it would be local, because we have such a large military and veteran community here in Tucson.”
After touring the Veterans Affairs campus, Sheehan chose the Arizona Fisher House of Tucson as the beneficiary for the UA. The Fisher House temporarily houses families of wounded service members and veterans who live too far away to make daily visits.
“It’s on the VA campus, so they’re close and it’s convenient, and it’s totally free,” Schenck said.
The Fisher House runs entirely on donations, so the bookstores are pushing the sale of OHT products to give back to the military community. OHT-UA attire can be purchased on the bookstores website.
“We are looking next year to include a scholarship for the [Veterans Education and Transition Services] Center as part of our fundraising efforts,” Schenck said. “So we’ll still be increasing the amount of money that goes to the Fisher House just by continuing to increase our efforts around Operation Hat Trick, but then also adding in a portion where some of the money would go to a scholarship fund for the VETS Center.”
Schenck explained that scholarship funding for veterans with the GI Bill, for example, is very inconsistent and can be revoked at any time.
“It actually happens, unfortunately, a lot, where a veteran will be in school and it’s being paid for and then they’ll find out like a month before the next semester starts that they lost their funding and they can’t go to school anymore,” Schenck said. “It’s just the way that government funding works. We’re looking to set up a scholarship fund, so when stuff like that does happen, they aren’t forced to drop out of school.”
Aside from purchasing OHT products from the bookstores, UA students looking to support Tucson’s military community can also write letters to deployed service members. Jake Wright, former assistant director of general merchandise, explained the letter writing initiative.
“The letter writing is something that the bookstore itself is doing along with Operation Hat Trick,” Wright said. “We’re doing it within the store, and it’s really to have students or faculty members on campus or families come in and write letters to soldiers that are deployed so they have something from the States. You can just come in and ask about that [letter writing], and you’ll be able to write letters.”
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