By Staff Sgt. Patrick Loch
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
ST. PAUL, Minn. (April 14, 2017) – For the third consecutive year, Minnesota service members were honored with on-court recognition and other VIP treatments as part of the Minnesota Timberwolves Heroes of the Pack Program.
“We are very appreciative for what the military does for us, and we wanted to give something back to honor the military,” said Roger McCabe, who along with wife, Nancy, is a driving force behind the recognitions through the FastBreak Foundation and Roger & Nancy McCabe Foundation. “This is our way of doing it.”
Having lived through the Vietnam War – and with Roger and Nancy both having parents who served – the two philanthropists decided a few years back to build upon existing recognition efforts already underway by the Timberwolves. And with that, recognitions that were typically happening at Target Center in November expanded to include Minnesota Service members from all branches at every home game – a total of 41 honorees per season.
“We just thought, ‘once November ends, what about the rest of the year!'” said Nancy. “Then we stepped up with the four tickets and the jersey.”
This past season nominees were offered tickets, courtside access before the game and a complimentary meal at the Backcourt Club. During the 2nd quarter, Service members were brought onto the court – to thunderous applause and a standing ovation – and presented a customized jersey.
“The program is amazing, what they do truly makes you feel honored and special,” said Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate First Class Walker Stippel, who was recognized March 21, 2017. “It was awesome.”
Being afforded extra tickets meant the Service member’s loved ones and friends could also enjoy the sentiment.
“It was my nephew’s first professional sporting event, and Crunch – the team’s mascot – came right over and got a picture with him,” said Stippel. “They treated us really well, someone was with us the whole time and really made it feel important.”
And at every game the McCabes attend, they seek out the Hero of the Pack for a shake of the hand from Roger and a hug from Nancy. And earlier in the year, the McCabes and the Timberwolves invited Gold Star Families – families of those who have died in service – to enjoy a game in the Target Center suites.
“I have to tell you that many of the people that are recognized, they are just so excited that they have been contacted and asked to be recognized, the call really comes out of the blue.” said Nancy. “And being able to host the Gold Star Families, that’s been quite an experience. Didn’t know what to say, other than thank you for service.”