Nobody left behind with Hidden Heroes

Opportunity doesn’t always knock. Sometimes it calls.

And when the Elizabeth Dole Foundation came calling about a partnership to help caregivers of military service members and veterans, it was no surprise that Val Nicholas picked up the phone. The vice president and creative director of NBC News knows a thing or two about service, after all.

“When you go into the military, you raise your hand and you make a promise to protect the country — and to never leave anybody behind,” says Val, a third-generation military veteran. “We still have an obligation to our veterans, to military families, and to the people who are serving that we won’t leave anybody behind.”


“We still have an obligation to our veterans, to military families, and to the people who are serving that we won’t leave anybody behind.”

Val Nicholas | Vice President and Creative Director, NBC News and third-generation military veteran

After leaving the U.S. Army in 1976, Val carried that service-oriented mentality over to his distinguished career in broadcast news, as well as to his role helping lead efforts like the NBCUniversal Veterans Network, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program, and the Got Your Six campaign.


Our strong, long-standing commitment to the military community made a partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation a natural fit. So, when Val’s phone rang, he picked it up and was introduced to Hidden Heroes, a program focused on celebrating and supporting the primary caregivers of active-duty military and veterans alike. The program is named Hidden Heroes because military caregivers make enormous sacrifices to provide care but rarely receive recognition or support. The idea resonated immediately.


Tom Hanks, Jessica Allen and Army Staff Sgt. Chaz Allen
Actor Tom Hanks, chair of the Hidden Heroes campaign, stands with military caregiver Jessica Allen and her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Chaz Allen, on the TODAY Show set.

“One thing people tend to forget about military service is that if one family member serves, everyone in the family serves,” he says. “It occurred to me that we were a great fit for Hidden Heroes. Using Comcast technology and NBC News’ storytelling together, suddenly we have the ability to make a bigger impact.”


Now Val had to put those pieces together. So he called Fred Maahs, Senior Director of National Partnerships at Comcast, who reached out to our company’s Military and Veterans Affairs and Accessibility teams. “Getting the additional buy-in we needed to move forward was easy,” Fred says. “We all saw how our company was uniquely positioned to help.”


Within a matter of weeks, NBCUniversal and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation had enlisted TODAY Show host Matt Lauer, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, MSNBC correspondent Richard Lui, and actor Ryan Phillippe to join as ambassadors alongside actor Tom Hanks, the chair of Hidden Heroes. In late September 2016, the Hidden Heroes campaign officially launched on the TODAY Show, signifying Comcast’s long-term commitment to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and military caregivers nationwide.


kpi

5.5 million+
The estimated number of primary caregivers caring for wounded, ill, or injured military service members and veterans in the United States


The heart of the campaign is telling the stories of the unsung Hidden Heroes. But, Val says, it’s also about building a community around them. Through the program, more than 200 groups and organizations have joined under the Hidden Heroes umbrella to support those efforts.


“News is not just a job; it’s a calling. And part of that calling is to tell stories that change people’s lives,” Val says. “That same dynamic applies to this work, doing things that can change the lives of veterans and military families.”


In addition to the partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Fred saw an opportunity to introduce Val to Easterseals, one of our national partners in the assistive technology space for people with disabilities. Easterseals joined with Operation Homefront to equip the homes of Hidden Heroes with accessible technology and the XFINITY suite of services to help make the lives of the caregivers — and those they’re caring for — a little bit easier.


The overall impact we can have struck a very real chord when Val met a military caregiver in person at a Comcast event. The woman shared her story, telling Val about the day-to-day joys and struggles of caring for her husband, a veteran. Having taken care of him for so many years in anonymity, she said she was surprised, appreciative, and emotional to discover efforts like Hidden Heroes focused on bringing caregivers into the spotlight.


“That was a defining moment for me, hearing it firsthand from somebody who’d been doing this for many years,” Val says. “People like that have earned our efforts to help them. They never ask for it, but they have earned it. They are the Hidden Heroes. They really are.”


Val Nicholas, vice president and creative director of NBC News
Val Nicholas, Vice President and Creative Director of NBC News, discusses the Hidden Heroes campaign with Carol Eggert, Senior Vice President of Military and Veteran Affairs at Comcast.


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