October 19, 2015 — The way she describes it, Suzanne Maas saw a need in the Coast Guard and did “something very small” to boost morale and bring enjoyment to Coast Guardsmen and their families.
“It really is fun. I get lots of smiles,” Maas said at the Pentagon Friday.
Over the past eight years, she has donated resources totaling $1.3 million to the Coast Guard through the Maas Family Foundation. She has worked to boost morale at units, help deployed Coast Guardsmen and provide support to units impacted by the loss of a member.
Coast Guard officials think the efforts she describes as “small” are quite the opposite.
On Friday, Maas stood on stage at the Pentagon with Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, who presented her with the 2015 Department of Defense Spirit of Hope Award.
Zukunft presided over the ceremony that honored a nominee from each of the military branches and the Department of Defense/Joint Staff.
The admiral noted how the award is named for Bob Hope, the legendary entertainer who traveled the world on USO tours for decades to visit the troops. Hope was 100 years old when he died in 2003.
“The Spirit of Hope Award is an emblem of his character, integrity, statesmanship that recognizes great Americans who share Bob Hope’s enthusiastic patriotism, and compassion and admiration for the men and women who support and defend the constitution of the United States,” Zukunft said.
The donations from Maas are funded solely through her family’s foundation. They include thousands of iPods and iTunes cards sent to deployed Coast Guardsmen and to crews and families of units that lost members.
She said she is proud of the men and women who serve in the Coast Guard. Maas, in an interview after the ceremony, said she is happy to do “a little bit” to bring smiles to servicemen and women and their families.
“I get these wonderful, wonderful letters,” Maas explained, including one from a young man who was able to see the ultrasound image of his unborn son thanks to a donated device. “That really just brought me to tears,” she added.
Maas said she was humbled and grateful to have been selected for the award. “So many other people are deserving of this and to be picked is really an honor.”
The idea to donate iPods, she said, came after she visited the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell after it returned from a deployment. She said she saw crews didn’t have much in the way of entertainment and couldn’t afford, she was told, the portable electronic devices to listen to music.
Maas has been generous in many other areas to help the service members. She funded a morale picnic for hundreds of Coast Guard responders during the Hurricane Katrina response. Maas, who was a nurse in a neo-natal intensive care unit, has visited crews to offer words of support in difficult times and tragedy.
She “adopted” units stationed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and boosted morale with barbeques, climbing walls and most recently, resurfacing their basketball court.
Maas said hopes to keep “trying to get Fort Lauderdale happier,” and continuing to help in any way she can.
“It’s a fun thing to do,” she said.
The Coast Guard Commandant and the many recipients of her gifts have thanked Maas for her generous support and for indeed doing a “fun thing” that has boosted morale and brought lots of smiles to those who serve the nation and the loved ones who support them.
Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando