Empty Super Bowl Seat Got Him ThinkingPosted on - 02:30 PM on Wed, Oct 10, 2012

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Are you ready for some football? Well, thanks to Mike Focareto's Vet Tix nonprofit, a lot more veterans are cheering from the stands.

Mike is a senior software engineer at the Infor office in Columbus, Ohio. He's also co-founder and CEO of Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix), a US nonprofit that gives donated sports and entertainment tickets to US military veterans, active-duty members, and their families as a way of saying thank you.

The idea for Vet Tix came to Mike, a US Navy vet, while attending the 2008 Super Bowl with a US Marine vet friend. "The seat next to us was empty the entire game. We wanted that seat to go to one of those folks doing the color guard on the field, and we vowed to make that happen," he said. So Vet Tix was born.

Vet Tix's purposeand its sloganis "Give something to those who gave." Vet Tix teams with major sports teams, leagues, promoters, organizations, venues and everyday event ticket holders to give "US service members an opportunity to put life's stresses aside, if even for one night."

Since 2008, Vet Tix has given away more than 450,000 event tickets in all 50 US states and Washington, DC, with an estimated face value of more than $17.5 million.

"We operate real lean," Mike says. Of every dollar that comes in, 99 cents goes into two programs: Tickets for Troops and Hero's Wish. "Our office is a converted 300-square-foot mother-in-law suite. We have four part-time employees (they volunteered for free for more than four years), and five volunteers. Ninety-five percent of our executive staff/founders work other full-time jobs while also working their Vet Tix full-time jobunpaid." Mike, alone, puts in 50 hours a week.

What do vets and military think about these event opportunities? Check Vet Tix testimonials

Vet Tix has recently taken some big steps:

New Partnership with Brown Paper Tickets
On Aug. 15, Vet Tix went live on a new partnership with Brown Paper Tickets, the world's only fair-trade online ticketing company.  Now anyone producing an event and their ticket-buyers can donate tickets to US military personnel, vets, and their families through a portal connecting the two organizations' websites.

"This is a huge deal," Mike says. "To give you a perspective on this, to date Vet Tix has given away approximately 450,000 ticket total since 2008. This deal will add 500,000 additional tickets per year."

US Military Endorsement
"Vet Tix has just been 'invited' to be included on the US Department of Defense 'OurMilitary' list of support groups," Mike says. "This is the biggest seal of approval we can earn, and we worked five years to get listed."

Vet Tix is one of only 152 groups in the OurMilitary list.

Vet Tix is one of just 21 listed in the OurMilitary Entertainment and Recreation category.

New College Football Partners
"We have been busy going after college football really hard. We contacted every Division 1 team, and we have had great success, with an average of each team donating 100 tickets per game, and also getting their season-ticket holders to donate their unused tickets … by including us in their newsletters," Mike explains.

New partners in 2012: Oregon State, University of Miami (Fla.), Florida State, Syracuse, Temple, Southern Methodist, Texas State, Texas Tech, Baylor, University of Southern California, Colorado, Iowa State, University of Nevada Reno, and Texas Christian University.

Learn more at Vet Tix.

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