This year marked the 22 years since Sarah White ’11 lost her father while he served in the U.S. Air Force.
An F-15 fighter pilot, Captain Dennis White lost his life off the coast of North Carolina in 1995. “It was a training mission,” she said. “A routine flight check in which they practice formations, something they do all the time.”
While many see this as a tragic circumstance, White has seen that the power of her story can give hope to those experiencing similar grief.
After getting accepted to Auburn, she applied for a scholarship at Folds of Honor, a non-profit that provides educational scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled service members.
“I was already learning how to stay strong and started to grow up fast at 6 years old,” White said. “[Folds of Honor] has taught me that there is strength in vulnerability.”
Little did she know that the organization was far more interested than just giving her a scholarship. During her sophomore year, she received a phone call and was asked to go speak at an event in Atlanta.
“I had no idea what I was doing at the time,” she said. “I had not even taken public speaking yet. But they reassured me that it was my story, I couldn’t mess it up. I’m sure I stumbled my way through.”
White spoke at a press conference at Atlanta Motor Speedway and they wanted her to speak again after that. Throughout her time as a student, White would often leave town on weekends to go to speaking events for the Folds of Honor to raise awareness.
“Not only was Auburn the best 4 years of my life, my experience there is a large part of who I am today; no matter how big the crowd, there is nothing better than hearing a ‘War Eagle’ after I tell them.”
White is now a regional development officer for Folds of Honor, which includes being in charge of developing relationships with individual donors and corporate partnerships by doing marketing campaigns across the country.
White works in Dallas, Texas, but she also gets involved with Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and the Carolinas, traveling throughout the year for fundraising events and sponsorships. As an original member of the FOH speakers bureau, White continues to share her personal story and what it meant to have a FOH scholarship.
“It has been such a humbling experience,” White said. “I feel so unequipped. I’m so unqualified to do what I do and to meet the people I meet, as well as the media platforms I am on.”
One day, White hopes to bring a fundraising event to the Auburn-Opelika area.White said that there are currently 17 FOH recipients attending Auburn (about $115,000 a year) and six attending AUM, given in $5,000 increments. For the past couple years, more applicants have qualified than there are dollars to fill their scholarships.
After bringing in $18 million last year, White said the FOH have only scratched the surface of its potential.
“Less than 1 percent put on a uniform on behalf of the other 99 percent that are free,” said White. “While the government maybe could do more, the FOH founder said it best: It’s not red issue, its not a blue issue–it’s a red, white and blue issue.”