In 2005, Virginia sisters Rachel and Kelsi (then ages 10 and 8) saw first-hand the hardships faced by a military family when a friend’s father returned from Iraq severely injured. In appreciation of the family’s sacrifice, the sisters launched ThanksUSA the following year. Through its scholarship program, it empowers military families – children and spouses of military personnel – to expand their education and skills through college, technical school, or vocational training programs. Some scholars train in new, higher-earning fields, while others enroll in college for the first time, or seek out more “portable” careers in real estate, healthcare, and education. Priority is given to families of the wounded and fallen, and while all scholarships are based strictly on financial need, scholars go on to earn an average 3.5 GPA. A dynamic online American History Treasure Hunt raises awareness of the program, and an alumni network connects graduates across the nation. To date, scholarships totaling more than $10 million (with 11.5% awarded in DC, Virginia, and Maryland) have helped say “ThanksUSA!” Now you can, too.
Headquarters: VA-Fairfax County
Where They Operate: DC-Citywide; MD-Statewide; VA-Statewide
Age Groups Served: Pre-teen/teen (12-17); Young adult (18-24); Adult (25-49)
Ethnic Groups Served: African American; Asian American; Caucasian; Latino/Hispanic; Native American; Other
Population(s) Served: Students
- Value of nearly 4,000 ThanksUSA Scholarships Awarded since 2006:
Awards & Recognition
Charity Navigator - 4-Star Rating (2014)
CNBC’s Top 10 Charities that Support Veterans – Listed as #2 Charity (2014)
Jefferson Award for Public Service – Awarded to ThanksUSA Co-Founders Rachel and Kelsi Okun (2012)
The National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation (NABEF) Guardian Award (2009)
Caring Institute’s Hall of Fame – Inductees Rachel and Kelsi Okun (2009)
Above and Beyond Citizen Honors – State of Virginia Representatives Rachel and Kelsi Okun (2008)
Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Founders’ Medal for Youth – Recipients Rachel and Kelsi Okun (2007)
USA TODAY 25th Anniversary Program – Selected as Top 25 National Charity (2007)
- $3 million or higher
- The current budget for ThanksUSA is: $1 million to $3 million
- $500k to $1 million
- Less than $500k
Catalogue charities range in size from $100,000 to
About the Catalogue for Philanthropy
Each year 120 expert reviewers evaluate applicants for distinction, merit, and impact. Each featured charity has been successfully site visited and its financials given the thumbs up. The Catalogue for Philanthropy charges no fees and raises funds separately to support its work. Since 2003, it has raised over $37 million for charities across the Greater Washington region.
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