John O’Leary is the President of Warrior Events, a nonprofit based in Annapolis, Maryland, that was one of the beneficiaries of the Proffitt Brothers Foundation’s American Heroes Benefit and Festival last fall. John may also be one of the most well-known and well-liked Annapolis residents.
A former Marine with a heart of gold, John spends a lot of his time visiting troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and organizing free events for veterans and their families through Warrior Events. In addition to volunteering and managing the nonprofit, John also works full-time for an IT services and consultant company, and he organizes some of Annapolis’ most popular events, such as the annual St. Patrick’s Hooley and Parade, through his for-profit business, Naptown Events.
We spoke with John about the nonprofit he founded and how the organization is making a positive impact in the communities it serves. Read the Q&A below.
What’s the most inspiring moment you’ve ever experienced as a nonprofit leader?
After the Boston marathon bombings, we took eight wounded warriors - amputees from Walter Reed - to Boston to visit the civilians that had lost limbs. We partnered with the Boston fire department who organized tours of the city, excellent welcome gatherings, a behind-the-scenes tour of Fenway Park, and most importantly, the visit to the hospital. We expected the visit would be therapeutic to the injured civilians and it was, but it was also extremely powerful to the troops who felt like they were conducting a mission again. It was the catalyst to yearly visits to other cities, and instead of visiting terrorist victims, thankfully, we began and still visit children’s hospitals with the troops. It’s an amazing aspect of Warrior Events.
When and why did you start Warrior Events?
I started Warrior Events in the spring of 2008 with a tailgate at a Navy lacrosse game. The plan was to create events that were for the troops and their families without a lot of fanfare and to create an organization that was 100% volunteer with very little overhead. Other organizations that were supporting wounded warriors at the time had been collecting millions of dollars with less than half actually going to the troops or programs.
What is Warrior Events’ mission and how many people do you think it has helped since its founding?
A 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, Warrior Events, provides local veterans, first responders and their families the opportunity to engage with and become pillars in their community through activation events, leadership forums, and partnered civic support programs.
We have supported over 500 individual troops and their families. We have also supported the far-too-many Gold Star Families in Maryland.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering with or donating to Warrior Events?
Get ready for a very positive experience!
What is the largest and most popular event that you have organized?
The largest event that I personally have organized is the Annapolis St. Patrick’s Parade. 20,000 visitors enjoyed the city that day in 2022.
Of what achievement are you most proud?
Father of four wonderful children.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Just that it is important to take chances especially with initiatives that could be risky or challenging. Sometimes you fail. That’s ok. Also, always improve upon the last event that you did. Never take a step back.
To learn more about Warrior Events, click HERE.