They gave, and he gives back
DIXON – Brett Nicklaus may never have served in the military, but he has a huge passion for serving Sauk Valley veterans.
Nicklaus, 54, and his wife Julie, 53, of Dixon, started the Trinity Cares, a nonprofit foundation named after his family insurance and financial planning business. Its’ goal is to expand fundraising events to assure that more veterans have the opportunity to participate in Honor Flights to various memorials in Washington D.C.
Trinity already is a major corporate sponsor of Bags for the Brave, an Honor Flight fundraiser that began in 2013. Aaron Simonton of the Dixon Police Charitable Association ran the bag throw tournaments, but recently relinquished the reins to Nicklaus, who has served on the Lee County Committee of the Quad Cities Honor Flight board for 4 years.
When Nicklaus went into business 33 years ago, he wanted to find a way to give back to the community. He wrote down his goal to give back to local veterans 7 years ago, and now it’s coming to fruition.
“I figured this would be a great way to segue the Bags for the Brave into our corporate cause,” he said.
“It’s his passion,” Julie said. “He’s always had a heart for veterans.”
Nicklaus has doubled the number of Bags for the Brave tournaments for this year.
Along with its original role in the Dixon Chamber and Main Street’s Blues, Brews and BBQ on Sept. 21, one more is planned for Aug. 31 along the Rock Falls Riverfront, in partnership with the Rock Falls Tourism Council.
Both tournaments will have a corporate team division, strictly for individuals who are part of corporate sponsorship, and a recreational one.
Nicklaus believes it’s important to know which local businesses are doing their part in giving back to the community.
He hopes Trinity Cares will do more than just run bags tournaments. Meanwhile, he has a vision to establish more bags events throughout the Sauk Valley, even as far away as Rockford, where Trinity has an office.
“My vision, ever since I got on the board, was to expand it outside of Lee County to the Sauk Valley,” Nicklaus said.
Several members of Nicklaus’ immediate and extended family have served in the military over the years, including his son, Devon, who was once in the Navy, and his son-in-law, Theron Green, who serves in the Air Force and lives in Germany.
Nicklaus also went on an Honor Flight as a guardian 3 years ago. It was a moving experience.
“It just changed my whole perspective on what the cause is. That day, you get to watch complete healing take place for these veterans. From the moment they leave the airport to the moment they come back, it’s almost like a release of everything they’ve had pent up for years.
“If everybody would be a guardian just once, they would be sold on the importance of the Honor Flight.”
It costs about $500 to send a veteran on flight, and raising money locally helps local veterans to take part in flights run by organizations close to home, rather than linger on a wait list at other regional hubs.
In fact, the Lee County Honor Flight is sending 103 veterans to D.C. on Thursday; more than 400 county veterans will have taken the trip since the chapter was launched in 2010.
“The main focus is getting more veterans,” Lee County coordinator Tom Bushman said. “We’re still hunting for more Korean [veterans] and World War II if they’re out there. The more money we can raise, the more veterans we can send to D.C.”
The Nicklauses have committed a portion of all income from Trinity Financial to Trinity Cares, to fund other projects that may come up, outside of bags tournaments.
“If it wasn’t for the veterans, we don’t have the freedom that we enjoy today,” Nicklaus said.