BROWNSBURG — Walking down a hall at Brownsburg High School, Josh Bleill is greeted by student after student complimenting him on his recent speech and assuring him that he had inspired them.
A former U.S. Marine, Bleill now works as a community spokesman for the Indianapolis Colts.
It’s been almost seven years since he lost both of his legs while serving in Iraq, but Bleill’s upbeat personality and perseverance has served as inspiration to many.
This is the second year in a row that he’s visited BHS to share his story. This time he came to support senior Kellie Dippel and her efforts to help build a house for a wounded veteran and his family.
Dippel organized a walk last year to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. This year, she’s hoping her fellow students and community will amp up the fundraising. She’s looking to raise $10,000 to help build that much needed home. She’s also collecting money, food, and toys for the children of wounder veterans.
This year’s fundraising walk starts at 9:30 a.m. April 13 at the Hendricks Regional Health YMCA in Avon. To sign up or donate, visit the website at hwwp5k.com.
“Just having him come out and motivate students to see why I’m doing this and who I’m doing this for was great,” Dippel said.
Bleill said he enjoys speaking to students and believes he relates to them.
“Certainly in the military, it’s a younger generation,” he said. “I was around people these high school kids’ ages, and it’s just talking about life. Everybody goes through difficult times. They’re facing a lot of new things and trying to fit in, and high school is a difficult period.
“I think I can relate to pushing through bad days and negative things and trying to change your attitude to have a positive response. They’re seeing a lot of pressure, so I think I can relate to their lives in general.”
Dippel said she was motivated to expand her fundraising program more after last year’s walk because she realized that families are often victimized as badly as their loved ones who are wounded in battle.
“I wanted to specialize it more,” she said. “So we’re raising money to build a home for a wounded warrior because I think that kind of goes unseen in the background, the families, so I wanted to branch out more to support the whole family in general.”
Bleill said she’s absolutely right.
“Sometimes we don’t think about that it’s not only the man or the woman involved,” he said. “A lot of them have kids and they’re dealing with a situation that’s as difficult as what the soldier is going through. Whether it’s collecting food or money, especially for the kids, they’re seeing their father or mother go through the most difficult time in their lives, so to give them hope and encourage them as well is huge.”
In his role with the Colts, Bleill specializes in inspiring others. This past year he went to Bethesda, Md., to meet with wounded soldiers who are just now going through what he’s already experienced. He’s also planning to hold an amputee support dinner and hopes to reach children who have dealt with amputations.
“I was around a lot of amputees and it helped a ton,” he said. “I want to get families together to talk about the problems they’re going through.”
She said her goal is to in turn motivate other students to keep going long after she’s graduated.
“I want younger kids to want to help and branch out and continue the support,” she said. “I don’t want this to be the last year and then it stops. I hope this motivates (younger classes) to keep this going.”
Bleill agreed and says he’d be happy to return to BHS.
“It was awesome to be back in Brownsburg,” he said. “I have a tie-in here now since we’ve worked before, so it’s just neat to continually give back to the younger generation and community. It’s neat to see that here in Brownsburg, the tradition continuing, and I hope it does that going forward.”
For more information on Dippel’s fundraising projects, visit the aforementioned website or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.