The New York Yankees kicked off H.O.P.E. Week by going to New Rochelle to surprise and honor Jake Gallin, the young founder of Stars for Cars, an organization that honors military veterans and their families. The Albert Leonard student, was sursprised at City Hall by the following NY Yankee players; Mariano Rivera, Brett Gardner, Nick Goody, Chase Headley and Brian McCann.
In 2011, 8-year-old Jake Gallin was watching television on a Thursday afternoon when he became interested in a segment that was running on the Oprah Winfrey Show. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden were Oprah’s guests that day, and they used the platform to discuss their nationwide campaign to support military families.
The First Lady talked about the sacrifices that “Blue Star” and “Gold Star” families make – Blue Star for the families with members currently serving, and Gold Star for those who have lost family members in combat. She spoke of the difficulties of having a loved one serving in the armed forces, and how it is an emotional time for many families.
She further explained how these families go largely unrecognized for all the difficulties and challenges they endure. The First Lady reminded the audience that one percent of our country protects the other 99 percent of our nation.
This statistic compelled Jake. He grew determined to raise awareness of the sacrifices that our troops and their families make every day. Soon after, while riding in the car with his mother, Jake noticed a decal on the car in front on them. He immediately came up with the idea to create magnetic decals to recognize the Blue and Gold Star Families for their service. When he returned home, he started designing the star and choosing the words “We Support Blue Star & Gold Star Military Families” for the decal. At that moment, “Stars for Cars” was officially born.
A family friend set up the website, www.starsforcars.org, where customers could purchase the 5.5-inch decals for $10 each. Then, Jake expanded the group’s efforts by sending more than 7,000 letters to schools and government officials to spread the word about the importance of honoring military families. The response was overwhelming, with more than 100 schools in seven states signing on to get involved.
“The car decal takes the idea of the Blue and Gold stars and allows you to put it on your car to show your support for the sacrifices of our troops and their families,” Gallin said. “I hope I am having an impact on every single person who hears the announcement or sees a star decal on the car in front of them.”
All of the organization’s proceeds go directly to the USO of Metropolitan New York, which strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. To date, Stars for Cars has sold thousands of decals and raised approximately $20,000.
Jake, now age 14 and an eighth-grade student at New Rochelle’s Albert Leonard Middle School, continues his efforts. As a result of his hard work and dedication, he has earned a number of accolades, including being named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2015 by The Prudential “Spirit of Community Awards.”
“He was just a kid who wanted to help,” said Jake’s father, Tom. “Something like this makes it clear that doing small things in life can make a big difference.”