Operation Hat Trick is a special project that was created by the Athletics Department at the University of New Hampshire in response to a radio segment heard in early ‘08 that reported "the thing most wanted by those members of the military who have received head injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan is a baseball cap to cover their wounds, dressings and scars."
Around the time of this radio report, Nate Hardy, a Navy SEAL and son of a UNH professor and his wife, was killed while on a covert mission in Iraq. As a result this project was born and Operation Hat Trick was coined after the term in hockey when one player on the team scores 3 goals in a single game. Operation Hat Trick has been dedicated to Nate Hardy for his service and love of country.
A partnership developed between UNH, all military branches, Turfer Sports, an athletic apparel company from East Providence, Rhode Island, the local VA Medical Center in Manchester, NH and Northeast Passage, a UNH program for the physically challenged and a program that services many out-patient veterans. An Operation Hat Trick logo was created for hats bearing "UNH" on the back, Turfer supplied the hats, and the VA Medical Center's Recreation Therapy Department was deemed the recipient of one hat for every 2 sold.
Six local retailers including an on-line provider committed to "adopting" the project by selling through their outlets. Retailers included:
- UNH Bookstore
- Hayden Sports
- Friends of Men's Hockey (hats available for sale at men's hockey games)
- Friends of Women's Hockey (hats availabel for sale at women's hockey games)
- Sportdesigns.com (www.unhwildcats.com)
- UNH Athletics
- Town & Campus (www.collegegear.com)
Here's how Operation Hat Trick works: For every 2 hats sold, a third was donated (suggested retail price of $19.95 each) to various VA Medical Centers. All branches of the military and UNH student groups were actively involved in promoting this project as well.
On Saturday, November 22, Operation Hat Trick was launched at
the UNH men's hockey game versus Providence. (Women's hockey had
its special presentation day on Friday, December 5th versus
Harvard.) A member from each military branch presented the colors,
groups of military men and women and their guests attended the game
and there was a special on ice presentation. Members of the
hockey team wore Operation Hat Trick hats during introductions and
then tossed each personally autographed hat into the crowd. Three
team signed hats were raffled off and proceeds went to the VA
Medical Center's Recreation Therapy program. On December 15,
members of each hockey team traveled to the Manchester, NH VA
Medical Center to meet and greet patients and delivered the first
group of hats.
Since Operation Hat Trick's initial launch, more VA and other Medical Centers have been earmarked to receive hats. They are now in the VA Medical Center in La Jolla, California and West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Operation Hat Trick Goes to Washington, D.C. 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, August 2, the University of New Hampshire brought its Operation Hat Trick (OHT) program back to Walter Reed Medical Center (WRMC) and Bethesda Naval Medical Center (BNMC) in Washington, D.C. for a third annual visit where OHT hats were once again delivered to wounded soldiers. This year American MOJO (a company owned by 2 UNH alums that puts single mothers to work) donated fleece blankets, a “big hit” with all who received them.
According to the program's founder, Dot Sheehan '71, Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Relations, "The original purpose of the program was to distribute hats to the wounded in VA and other medical facilities nationwide. In the three years that Operation Hat Trick has been in existence we have seen it grow to where there are now several VA Medical Centers nationwide distributing hats to their wounded and veterans of other wars.”
This year Sheehan was accompanied by UNH President Mark Huddleston; Donna and Steve Hardy, parents of Nate Hardy to whom OHT is dedicated; Amber Lilyestrom ’04, Associate Athletic Director for Marketing & Communications; Brian White, Vice President-University Services, Collegiate Licensing Company; Katie Koziol, UNH representative for Collegiate Licensing Company; Tom Carr, Northeast Passage Assistant Director for Outreach & Athletics; Taylor Chace ‘10, USOC Paralympic Sportsman/ of the year and Paralympic Gold medalist in the sport of sled hockey; Valerie Schaffner, American MOJO’s Director of Business Development.
Sheehan said, "It was another unbelievable day. The number of wounded has increased and this year the number of multiple amputations per soldier was staggering. With the closing of Walter Reed so many were already being cared for at Bethesda Naval including those with head injuries. We saw our first two New Hampshire amputees, one of whom had a wife who graduated from UNH in ’05. What you see and hear during one of these visits is indescribable."
She continued, “This might have actually been the most impactful trip to date because the injuries were so severe and our interaction was so good. It never ceases to amaze any of us that the dedication to country and strength of spirit of these young men and women is so strong. They are all very special to us and they in turn are so thankful that we continue to come back. Remembering them seems to mean a tremendous amount to all."
OHT was created by Sheehan after she heard a report about wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan wanting a baseball cap to cover their head wounds, scars and bandages. "It's really a very basic concept," said Sheehan, “a concept that has caught on and one that will go national by early 2012. The look and style of the hat has changed and with the help of Collegiate Licensing Company over 80 colleges and universities have signed on to become part of OHT, 40 of which have placed orders with their retailers. A portion of all proceeds will go to the VA General Fund to support all soldiers. Additional partnerships are being pursued and we are very hopeful that OHT will be huge.
Hats can be purchased online at www.wildcatstore.com. Stay tuned for the national launch of OHT in late 2011. For more information on Operation Hat Trick, click here.
OPERATION HAT TRICK NIGHT 2010
Operation Hat Trick was held on February 25, 2011. Once again, all those wounded in battle were honored as well as Nate Hardy, for whom the program was dedicated, was remembered.
The game began with a ceremonial puck drop done by USOC Paralympic SportsMan of the Year and Gold Medalist Taylor Chace. Chace visited veteran hospitals to deliver OHT hats to wounded veterans earlier this year and is a big supporter of the program.
This year, UNH remembered one of its own, UNH Alum Scott Milley '09. Scott was a member of the ROTC and was killed in Afghanistan in November 2010. Milley's parents and brother joined Dr. Stephan Hardy and his wife Donna during the first intermission to receive their official OHT hats and to celebrate Scott's life.
UNH hockey players again wore signed OHT hats during introductionsa nd threw them into the crowd afterward. All active and former military in attendance were recognized, all four military branches presented the colors as a tribute to all who served.
UNH will continue to visit medical centers and donate OHT hats to those who have suffered head wounds. As those recuperating continue to say, "These hats made us feel almost normal again. And we are especially thankful to be remembered for our love of country, strength of spirit and dedication to freedom."
UNH is planning another visit to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Centers in late spring/early summer 2011. Look for OHT to become a national program in the fall of 2011 when over 75 schools nationwide will adopt the program.
Hats are available for purchase at www.unhwildcats.com, Hayden Sports, the UNH Bookstore, Town & Campus, and at Friends of Hockey merchandise booths during all UNH hockey games.
Hats are available for sale on-line at www.unhwildcats.com, at Hayden Sports, at the UNH Bookstore, and at Town & Campus in Durham.
For more information on Operation Hat Trick, please contact Dot Sheehan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 862-4677.