Tom "Holly Wood" Pooler's story begins in Germany in 1984. He was stationed there as a member of the military during the Cold War, and went for a ride on his motorcycle after an evening of drinking . Riding a motorcycle while drunk is often a situation that doesn't end well, as it didn't for Tom. He ended up wrecking his motorcycle, destroying his lower leg, breaking his back and going into a coma.
"I hate when people blame the bike," Tom said. "It was my own stupidity that did this - not the bike."
Tom had thought about making the military his career. However, at that time, an amputation meant your military career was over. Tom spent a year working for a prosthetics company, which showed him how much work went into getting the proper fit, as well as the benefit of working with an experienced prosthetist.
"Ninety-nine percent of people don't even know I wear a peg, which says a lot because I am on my feet 6-7 days a week at work," Tom stated. "Goes to show how important a good fit is."
After his recovery and experience working at the prosthetics company, Tom needed an outlet for his passion of helping other people. He found his calling after the tragic death of his nephew, who was murdered by his stepfather. Tom saw this tragic event left the surviving loved ones in a situation they aren't equipped to deal with. It was from this terrible event that Tom founded the Friends of Brandon Foundation (the foundation also has a Facebook page)
The foundation was created with the mission of "Assisting Victims of Violence and Adversity" in any way possible. The loss of a loved one can be difficult, especially during the holidays. The foundation helps provide Thanksgiving meals, Christmas trees, gifts for children in the family and anything else that can ease the burden of the family.
"When tragedy happens, that may result in a loss of income," Tom said. "We can help the survivor with budgeting skills. We offer self-defense and physical fitness instruction. We are even putting together a Crock Pot cookbook. Anything we can do to help."
Tom came into contact with many veterans through the foundation's work, spurring him to create an annual "Feed Our Heroes" dinner. The free Thanksgiving meal and gathering for veterans served 15 meals the first year. This last year, the third annual, saw over 300 meals served. For 2014, there are plans to add dinners in two more states, as well as plans for becoming a 501c non-profit organization and expanding the event to Easter and Christmas.
The group also volunteers to visit veterans in nursing homes, something that is life changing, Tom said.
"You don't realize the impact that a simple visit can have. I can't describe what it's like to have a widow look you in the eyes and thank you," Tom said when talking about a veteran who had recently passed away.
Though Tom knows he can't save the world, he knows the work he does helps make a difference in people's lives.
"If each person would just help one person, think what a difference that would make."