Originally written on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 10/28/14
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DANA WAKIJI FOXSPORTSDETROIT.COM DETROIT -- Justin Verlander may not be having the kind of season he would like on the field, but he's definitely making an impact with his off-field endeavors. Verlander, who already donates his Comerica Park suite to wounded veterans as part of his Victory for Veterans program, has decided to do more for those who have served the country. On Wednesday, Verlander, in conjunction with the Detroit Tigers Foundation, announced a 1 million investment in a new initiative, Wins for Warriors, to support the mental health and emotional well-being of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families in Detroit, Richmond and Norfolk. "I think the stats show it: one in three post-911 veterans need support," Verlander said. "Thats a staggering number. And its not just the men and women that served, its their families as well, that need the help. And, like I said, theyre not going to just throw up their hand and say they need it. So this is kind of a great way to be able to help, like I said, kind of extend your arm and help these men and women." The money will go to two existing programs that already work with veterans and their families, Give An Hour and The Mission Continues. Give an Hour requests that mental health professionals donate an hour of their time each week to offer free mental health services to military personnel and their families. The organization currently has almost 7,000 professionals across the country who have already donated 94,000 hours of service. Verlander's Wins for Warriors will enable Give an Hour to provide two new positions in Detroit and RichmondNorfolk to coordinate services and provide more mental health support and care for the military in both areas. In a statement, Give an Hour founder and president Barbara Van Dahlen said: "We are grateful to Wins for Warriors and to Justin Verlander for recognizing the needs of our military and veteran communities. Justin clearly understands the importance of reaching our service members and veterans in the communities in which they live and he is willing to use his celebrity to ensure that these men, women and families have access to the care they need and deserve." The Mission Continues offers community service fellowships to post-911 veterans to help them develop a sense of purpose and identity outside of their military service. The Mission Continues sponsors veterans in a six-month service and leadership training program in which they volunteer at least 20 hours a week for six months in community organizations. Verlander's Wins for Warriors will help provide three new fellowships, one each from Detroit, Richmond and Norfolk. In a statement, The Mission Continues' vice president of programs, Army veteran Meredith Knopp said: "Justin's support will enable veterans who have a passion for community service to redeploy on a new mission here at home. These veterans are tremendous leaders, who -- given this kind of opportunity -- are ready to tackle and solve tough problems facing their local communities. We recognize the long-term impact on a veteran's successful transition is a win-win for the nation, and is only made possible through generous contributions of partners like Justin and Win for Warriors." Part of Verlander's connection to the military goes back to his days at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, a large naval school. "Some of my best friends from back there are in the Navy, serve in the Navy," Verlander said. "Its just kind of bred into you. Its become part of the culture. You just kind of start to live and breathe it, and even if youre not serving, you respect it. And thats where I was." Verlander said it wasn't one person or circumstance that sparked his interest in starting this initiative. "To be honest with you, its kind of been just a build-up over the years, especially since I started Verlanders Victory for Veterans," Verlander said. "The feedback I got from that, inside the community, was just tremendous. Many people coming up to me, telling me they appreciated the support for the veterans. Some past veterans who would come up to me, on the street, just in passing and (say), Hey, thank you for what you do. Thats something that means a lot to me. "This is something that Im passionate about. Im in a very fortunate opportunity now, and I feel like I wouldnt be here, if not for these men and women, so this is my way to give back." Tigers manager Jim Leyland was impressed with Verlander's initiative. "I couldn't be prouder of Justin, what he did today, it's totally remarkable, commendable." Leyland said. Fans can assist Verlander in his efforts to help veterans. There is a Crowdrise fundraising campaign for Wins for Warriors that goes through the end of the regular season. Verlander will match all donations and donors will have a chance to participate in an on-field event before a game in 2014, receive an autographed baseball or watch a game from Verlander's suite in 2014. Visit JustinVerlander.com or CrowdRise.comJustinVerlander. LEYLAND'S THOUGHTS ON VERLANDER Leyland hasn't heard the various opinions about what might be contributing to Verlander's struggles this season. "I haven't heard anybody chiming in. I don't pay any attention to those people," Leyland said. "I think I'll hold my ground on what I feel about it is that he's a great pitcher with great stuff that's struggled a little bit. I think the silver lining is the fact that we know that he's capable of reeling off five in a row at any time because he's done that in the past." BULLPEN REPORT Bruce Rondon tweaked his back in Tuesday night's rain-filled game but Leyland said he was OK. As for the rest of the bullpen? "I think everybody's pretty much OK," Leyland said.
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