2607 West 17th Street • Chicago, IL 60608
Lagunitas will provide an open bar environment in which attendees will be able to meet people in the service, members of the Lagunitas bar staff, local athletes, politicians and other supporters of the SEALs and their families. Brews for the Brave is one of several events going on around the country in anticipation of Greenland’s Polar Circle Marathon. This October, several members from the foundation will be traveling to Greenland, where they will be running a half marathon followed by a full marathon on two consecutive days.
Lagunitas Brewing Company will be opening its doors this Tuesday to both Chicagoans and visitors from across the country for the Navy SEAL Foundation’s event, Brews for the Brave.
Given the upcoming marathon, the intention behind Brews for the Brave is not only to raise awareness for the hard work and sacrifices made by the SEALs, but also to encourage people to help the marathon runners raise funds for the foundation. Anyone interested in supporting the cause is encouraged to buy a ticket and attend Brews for the Brave, regardless of one’s affiliation with the armed forces. Part of the proceeds earned from the tickets will contribute to funding the bar tap, while the net profits from the event will go back into the Navy SEAL Foundation itself.
CUSP Magazine was able to sit down with one of the Navy SEAL Foundation’s largest supporters, Matthew Rowe, to learn more about Brews for the Brave and the organization behind it.
Q&A with Matt Rowe of Brew for the Brave
CUSP Magazine: What is your connection to the Navy SEAL Foundation?
Matt Rowe: My relationship is, very specifically, that I didn’t serve in the Navy, and that I have a lot of good friends that did. I view it as my way to serve the country and give back, especially considering that I didn’t. A lot of my family members were in the military. A lot of my good friends were as well. I chose this particular organization because they do good work with the families and supporting the teams in general, and that’s pretty much why I got involved.
CM: Could you tell me a little bit more about how the Navy SEAL Foundation has grown over the last several years?
MR: It really kicked into high gear after 9/11 because there was a lot more engagement of the Navy SEAL teams. These guys are gone roughly 70 percent of the time. They’re away from their families and their kids and communities and such, so they really kicked into overdrive because a lot of guys weren’t coming home … It particularly strikes me [with] the work that they do with the kids. A lot of these families are fractured, not only if they lose family members killed in action, but also they’re just gone a lot.
CM: Have you experienced losing someone in action?
MR: Yeah, in various forms. And so what struck me most was the kids and the absence of the parent, whether it’s permanent or temporary. The choice that a lot of these families make to have somebody be at risk and away from the family is a pretty impressive one.
CM: How successful has the foundation been?
MR: They’re very engaged and pretty creative, so I think the number last year is that they raised a little over $15 million, and that number’s been going up.
CM: Why did you choose Chicago to host Brews for the Brave?
MR: A couple reasons. I moved here to Chicago a couple years ago from San Francisco, and the guys who started Lagunitas Brewery are good friends of mine. They started off in Petaluma, California and they recently, about 2 years ago … decided to open up a brewery in Chicago and they chose to put it in Pilsen, which is sort of an up-and-coming neighborhood I guess you could call it, partly because they wanted to give back to the community … They’re very philanthropic and very humble about how well they’ve done as a brand. So I asked them if they’d be interested in doing something, and they have been very generous with a number of things. I’m involved also with the Chicago Botanic Garden and with our school board and such, and they’ve been very supportive in a number of ways. It’s just another way for them to give back to the community.
CM: What are some examples of how Lagunitas has supported the Navy SEAL Foundation?
MR: Well, they say that they’re ‘rich in beer,’ and for a lot of philanthropies it’s a big part of the cost structure of hosting a dinner or an event or something … keeping your cost as low as possible and making it enjoyable for people. You know, food and beverage and their facility … they’ve been very supportive on that front. We worked with Lagunitas to figure out the best way to do it and make it low friction and high efficiency for the people who are coming … We wanted it to feel like they’re just walking into a room and they don’t have to do anything else. And we chose to do it after work because it just seems like it’s easier for people, to not be intrusive on people’s family time, and somebody can just go solo straight from their office there, almost like a happy hour … Even if they just want to show up for an hour, it should work.
CM: How have you been reaching out to people who have no involvement with the SEALs or with the Navy or Army in general?
MR: So we did a spot last week on Windy City Live, which was pretty funny. Mike Martin [a former SEAL and present Navy SEAL Foundation board director] did a minimal SEAL workout — push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups — and ran one of the hosts of the show through it and had him dive into a boat filled with icy water, which is part of the punishment that they used to have in the Navy. And we use social media to the extent that we can, LinkedIn and Facebook, and we’ve tried to just keep it as open as possible and not have an exclusive type of event, but that’s always a challenge — reaching a broader audience. We’ve talked a lot in our community about it so that people who are outside of our circles have an understanding of what’s going on too. But that’s part of the reason why we’re happy to reach out to you guys, so that we could get out to a larger audience and have more awareness, because there’s not a single demographic that’s served by the Navy and, in particular, the special forces groups. Everybody benefits from it. So we’d love as broad an audience as possible … because the goal, of course, is to raise money and awareness for the foundation, so the more the better.
CM: Is there anything else you’d like to say about Brews for the Brave or about the Navy SEAL Foundation?
MR: What I would close with is: Eric Cunningham [a supporter of the foundation] and I, neither one of us served in the military. [Mike Martin] is a former SEAL. The three of us all live here in Chicago and are part of the team of 18 people who are going to do the marathon, and I think we’re a good demonstration of the type of support that we have. We became friends first. We work in the same industry, and we figured out that there were ways we wanted to help. We think that it’s important to Mike. It’s important to Mike’s family, and we gained both the ability and the awareness of how we can help out. We’re very specific about saying, ‘I am not a Navy SEAL, nor do I want to pretend to be one.’ We’re just civilian supporters.
It is with the help of civilian supporters, such as many of the expected attendees of Brews for the Brave, that the Navy SEAL Foundation hopes to further aid everyone touched by the sacrifices made by both members of the armed forces and their families. Tickets for Brews for the Brave cost $150, most of which is tax deductible. The event will take place at Lagunitas Brewing Company this Tuesday, July 14, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. With a maximum capacity of 300 guests, the Navy SEAL Foundation and Lagunitas Brewing Company encourage anyone interested to buy their tickets as soon as possible. More information about the Navy SEAL Foundation, Brews for the Brave and the Polar Circle Marathon can be found below.
Navy SEAL Foundation website: www.navysealfoundation.org
Information on Brews for the Brave (including ticket purchasing):
Donate to the Polar Circle Marathon: https://47071.thankyou4caring.org/pages/polar-circle-marathon
Donate to the Navy SEAL Foundation: