UArizona and Operation Hat Trick support local veterans for sixth straight year

Arizona Football defensive line coach Ricky Hunley communicates with players on the field during the Nov. 18 football game against Utah.

Arizona Football defensive line coach Ricky Hunley communicates with players on the field during the Nov. 18 football game against Utah. Hunley and other members of the coaching staff wore Operation Hat Trick-branded clothing as part of the university’s Military Appreciation Day events.

Arizona Athletics/Rebecca Sasnett

The University of Arizona is partnering for the sixth successive year with the national nonprofit Operation Hat Trick to support military service members and veterans through the sale of military-themed merchandise.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Fisher House in Tucson and the university's two VETS Centers. The Fisher House Foundation builds homes where military and veteran families can stay for free while their loved ones get treatment. The homes are located at military and Veterans Affairs medical centers around the world, including the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System campus on Tucson's south side.

This year's campaign launched Nov. 1, the start of Military Appreciation Month.

"As a university, we are proud to support our local veterans and active-duty service men and women," said Alixe Holcomb, UArizona associate vice president of brand development. "We strive every year to make this a program that our community can count on and wants to support."

The merchandise is available through the University of Arizona BookStores, both in-store and online, while supplies last. This year's Operation Hat Trick merchandise features more than a dozen items.

Dot Sheehan, president and CEO of Operation Hat Trick, founded the organization in New Hampshire in 2008, then took it national in 2012. It takes its name from the University of New Hampshire’s tradition in hockey and an initial donation of caps to Veterans Affairs medical centers. Soldiers had requested caps to cover head wounds, burns, swelling and bandages.   

Each Fisher House provides a place to stay for up to 21 families, who enjoy a private bedrooms and bathrooms, while sharing a common kitchen, dining area and laundry facilities.

The two VETS Centers on campus provide student veterans with services such as counseling and career assistance resource fairs, and even free computer use.

Over the course of its partnership with Operation Hat Trick, UArizona has donated over $100,000 and won several Excellence in Service Awards from the nonprofit. Last year's campaign raised $25,000 for the Fisher House and earned the university a second-place award.

Operation Hat Trick had sideline access at the university’s Military Appreciation Day events during the Nov. 18 football game against Utah at Arizona Stadium. The Arizona Football coaches wore examples of this year's OHT athletic tops and hats to match the team's military-inspired uniforms.

And to mark Military Appreciation Month, on Nov. 24 Holcomb and other staffers from the UArizona Division of Marketing and Communications went to the Tucson Fisher House to meet with families, prepare a meal of chili and cornbread, and create welcome bags for new Fisher House arrivals.

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