Since 2014, Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate and his wife Elise have been running the Golden Future Foundation — a nonprofit dedicated to bettering the lives of veterans and their families. Their largest annual fundraiser is the Stars and Strikes bowling competition, which brings together veterans, Lions players, and football fans, and raised over $50,000 last year. Hour Detroit spoke with Elise as she prepares for this year’s event — scheduled for September to coincide with 9/11 — on what inspires her and Golden to give back, and how they aim to help veterans across the city.
Hour Detroit: What inspired you to start GFF?
Elise Tate: We started GFF a few years ago because we have relatives who served. Both of my grandfathers served in WWII and the Korean War and Golden’s grandfather also served in the Korean War. We just wanted to see how we could help both those older classes and the younger guys that are coming back [from Iraq]. A lot of these [younger] guys are deployed when they’re 18 and they’re out of the service in their early 20s. Many have PTSD, or they’re injured. So, we just wanted to create a way to give back and bless these soldiers who have deeply blessed our lives by keeping our nation free and allowing us to live the life that we do.
What kinds of things do you do?
We’ve created a situation where people nominate [veterans] for different scenarios. So, one guy had just gotten back from serving, and had back issues. Instead of just giving him a check, we paid for his hospital bills. We got another guy a new bed. We’ve also done huge coat drives where we’ve gotten thousands of coats. The adult coats went to the homeless or needy veterans, and [we gave] all the kids coats to deserving schools around Detroit and Ann Arbor.
Do you have a favorite moment?
Yes! Golden and I got engaged a few years ago so we wanted to help veterans who didn’t have the means to get engaged. We partnered with a diamond company called Ritani and have done several proposals. Many of them were really cool stories that are now on YouTube. We have a very covert selection process for the proposal, because if we say, “I’m going to pay for a diamond ring for you,” everyone is going to think, “I want that!” So, we asked the Iraq Afghanistan Veteran’s Association and Michigan Veteran’s Association to be our eyes and ears. At our request, they secretly look for situations where we can bless a soldier. It’s crazy the way some of these scenarios fall in our laps. In December 2015, Ritani donated a diamond ring, and within a week, we found a Navy veteran. He had come back from Iraq, and his dad had cancer, so he couldn’t afford the ring. Golden and I gave them our personal suite at [Ford Field] and had the proposal on the field with a bunch of teammates. It was really special.
“What’s unique about our foundation is that we give every penny back. So, if we raise $40,000, we’re literally writing checks for that and more.”
— Elise Tate
And you also fundraise?
We have two to three fundraisers per year. We have a bowling event every year and that’s kind of our main fundraiser. We also always allow people to donate online. What’s unique about our foundation is that we give every penny back. So, if we raise $40,000, we’re literally writing checks for that and more. Golden and I will personally pay for the venues [or] a event coordinator. Everything that comes in from a donor goes directly back to our troops.
How do you see yourself as fitting into the larger landscape of veteran organizations?
One thing we wanted to make sure was that we weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel and start a foundation that was going to start something new. We mainly use our platforms to spread awareness for the need. So, partnering with these large organizations [like IAVA and MVAA] really helps because — whether it’s Golden’s college network at Notre Dame, or Detroit, or past fans of the Seahawks — we can really pull people from all over the United States. We want to bring attention to this important group of people that do so much for us, but then come back and don’t have the network or voice or support that they should have.
What are some larger systematic changes you’re hoping to see?
We are really hoping to see large corporations do a bigger push to hire veterans. Starbucks has done a huge push and Golden Future just partnered with Chipotle. They’re going to help us with the big coat drive this year. We really want to have a strategic partnership with corporations who have the same goals for veterans that we do.
What are your goals for the coming decade?
We definitely want to expand and raise more money so that we can continue supporting the organizations that we have year after year. Essentially, we want to be doing what we’re doing right now, but on a larger scale.
Name: Elise Tate
Hometown: Seattle, Wash.
Current Cities: Birmingham, Mich., San Diego
Veterans Organizations that Get the ‘Golden’ Stamp of Approval
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: “We’ve worked closely with them for years. They’re doing a lot for the young guys coming home right now, especially in terms of combatting mental health issues.”
For more information visit iava.org.
Pets for Vets: “This is an organization that combines our love for animals and veterans. We love the companionship that animals bring. They can so powerfully help with PTSD and be a guide for all types of needs.”
For more information visit petsforvets.com.
Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency: “They work tirelessly to help vets return to the workforce and we love supporting veterans’ employment. We regularly help pay a salary for a veteran who has returned.”
For more information visit michiganveterans.com.