Coast Star ~ Sept 4, 2014
Afghanistan veteran Daniel Collins raises $4,000 for group
By Patrick Farrell
BELMAR — After growing out his beard for two and one-half years, Belmar resident Daniel Collins broke out his clippers and shaved in the name of charity this past Saturday, raising thousands for Operation Beachhead.
Operation Beachhead is a local nonprofit that helps veterans and active servicemen engage in sports, including surfing and sled hockey.
In anticipation for his sister’s wedding, Mr. Collins, an Afghanistan veteran, promised he would fix up his beard, and he also saw it as an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for his fellow veterans in the area.
To do so, he made an event page on Crowdrise — an online, crowdsourced donation site.
“To raise money these days, you can’t set up a table and sit outside a ShopRite,” he said, noting he was lucky to have “a large online network” through his involvement in the CrossFit community.
CrossFit is a form of weightlifting, and Mr. Collins has taught the sport at multiple gyms.
“On the fundraising page, I said if I raise more than $500, the beard is going,” he said, joking that if he did not raise the funds, he swore to only trim it neatly.
When he first began looking for charities, Mr. Collins was not familiar with Operation Beachhead, but said he is grateful he found it, and plans to continue working with the organization in the future.
“It took me almost a year to find a decent [charity],” he said.
“I’m a disabled vet, and it was hard finding someone who could help me at first,” Mr Collins said. “Luckily, I have a good support group in my core group of friends and family.”
“I looked into the Wounded Warrior Project, and it wasn’t quite what I was looking for,” he added.
During a conversation at a local bicycle shop, someone mentioned Operation Beachhead to him, and before long, he was in contact with owner, Michael Ricci, and the fundraiser was up and running.
“I emailed him on a Sunday morning, and that afternoon he called me back,” Mr. Collins said.
By that Wednesday, he had everything he needed.
“We got together, and we talked about it,” Mr. Ricci said. “Within two weeks’ time, he just shocked me by raising $4,000. In that period of time, that’s a huge amount.”
The $4,000 Mr. Collins’ fundraiser generated will go directly to Operation Beachhead to help fund equipment, food, lodging, transportation and instruction for participants in the program.
“No one gets paid,” Mr. Ricci said. “It’s completely volunteer-run, and every cent goes towards participants and their needs.”
The program is available to anyone, including veterans, active duty servicemen and all children with special needs.
Over the summer, Operation Beachhead ran surfing and kayaking clinics, to name a few events, and this winter, both Mr. Ricci and Mr. Collins are looking forward to getting on the ice to play sled hockey.
“With my job, my weekdays don’t exist anymore, so with Mike doing a lot of stuff on the weekends, it’s perfect,” Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Ricci said he is glad to have Mr. Collins join as a volunteer, and is looking forward to giving him a warm welcome to “the OB family.”
Operation Beachhead © 2011. All rights reserved.
Founded in 2011, Operation Beachhead is a 501c/3 non-profit organization based at the Jersey Shore.
-- P0 Box 333 Manasquan, NJ 08736