Mike Bradshaw, board member for United Through Reading, has high praise the nonprofit program, which serves to ease the effects of separation for military service members and their families through recorded storytime. WashingtonExec recently spoke to Bradshaw, who said “it’s tough not to get choked up” at videos he’s seen demonstrating the program, which allows deployed service members opportunities to record themselves reading stories to their children. It allows the service members to maintain a special bond with their children and families while away from home.
United Through Reading will hold its UTR Tribute to Military Families Gala on May 21 at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Additionally, UTR has announced that UTR trustees Christa Burke and Carolyn Colwell have agreed to match any $1,000 donation to UTR’s Tribute to Military Families up until May 21, up to $30,000.
WashingtonExec: As a United Through Reading board member, what can you tell us about the organization and its importance to deployed service members?
Mike Bradshaw: One of the most difficult things a child can experience is being separated from a parent, particularly when the parent is deployed to a war zone for an indeterminate period of time. United Through Reading helps ease the stress of separation for military families by having deployed parents read children’s books aloud via DVD for their child to watch at home.
“The stress of separation is eased and homecomings are much easier.”
The deployed service member is recorded reading a book and the recording is sent to the child at home. As the child watches the video, the reaction is captured and sent back to the service member who is encouraged to record again. The stress of separation is eased and homecomings are much easier. Separation continues to be a part of military life, and military families will continue to yearn for ways to stay connected. Programs like United Through Reading are there to help.
WashingtonExec: After working with UTR, could you share any specific feedback you’ve heard on the impact that the program has had on service members and their families?
Mike Bradshaw: You can see the impact firsthand through a couple of YouTube videos. One of my favorites is called “United Through Reading Surprise from Daddy.” You can see the immediate, positive impact the video has on two girls, and how it affects each of them differently based on their ages. And you can imagine how the father will feel when he receives his video of the reaction of his daughters. It’s tough not to get choked up while watching the video.
Another great video is called, “United Through Reading at the USO Gala.” I like this video, because the deployed father explains why the program is important to him and how it allows him to stay connected to his family, when he can’t call them frequently. He says the program not only helps families stay together, but it also helps children learn the joy of reading.
And, last, take a look at a fun, short one called, “Indra’s Storytime.”
WashingtonExec: What drew you to want to serve on UTR’s board and to take a leadership role in the first UTR Gala on the East Coast?
Mike Bradshaw: I was asked to meet with a retired commander who was working for United Through Reading. She introduced me to the mission of the organization and, more importantly, she told me how the program made a big difference to both the deployed war fighter and to their children. She gave many examples of the joy that kids would have when a DVD and a book arrived, and how they were able to watch their parent read that book to them. Her examples were so compelling that I was able to appreciate the importance of this program to these kids, but also to understand how important the program is to a parent who had to leave their young children and worry that they may not know them when they return, or that the child may become somewhat detached while the parent was away. I really like the organization’s focus on helping to relieve some of the stress a warfighter can experience while away from the family.
WashingtonExec: What can we expect from United Through Reading’s Tribute to Military Families, to be held in May?
Mike Bradshaw: We’re excited to have our first fundraising event on the East Coast to introduce United Through to the Washington, D.C. military leadership and the overall D.C. community. United Through Reading events, such as the Storybook Ball in San Diego, are a lot of fun, but also very compelling. And, by compelling, I mean that it is hard to not be emotional when you hear about the specific impact the program has had on a family. There will be several of these stories shared at the event.
WashingtonExec: You graduated from William and Mary and George Washington University. What is your favorite location in the Greater Washington, D.C. area?
Mike Bradshaw: There are too many favorite spots, both old ones and new ones. My wife and I really enjoy going downtown to try as many of the new restaurants as possible. There are great restaurants all around the city now — of all types of cuisine. And there is a lot of great architecture in neighborhoods that are being revived with new restaurants and galleries. We always love going to the National Mall. I spent a lot of time in the museums when my sons were young. And I have to include Nationals Park.
“I really like the organization’s focus on helping to relieve some of the stress a warfighter can experience while away from the family.”
WashingtonExec: What’s the best piece of leadership advice you’ve received and make sure to follow? What book do you think everyone on your staff should be reading?
Mike Bradshaw: My father taught me a lesson when I was in first grade that I’ve never forgotten. He told me that everyone had something valuable to offer and that being different was usually a great thing. He told me that I needed to take the time to understand why someone was different — that I should want to understand their unique value, and that we all benefit and grow from ideas that are different from our own. I took the lesson to heart and have always strived to build diverse teams — particularly with people who are smarter than me!
It is tough to find a leadership book that is universally appealing and useful. I prefer biographies. One of my favorites is “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It showcases Abraham Lincoln’s ability to lead a group of strong-willed men, who initially were political rivals and initially didn’t respect him.