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"The Kraft family and the Patriots put honoring veterans and our military front and center in everything they do," Sweeney said in a statement. "It's great to see and I can't thank them enough. The work the Military Friends Foundation does to help soldiers, veterans, and military and Gold Star families is inspiring. I'm proud to be a part of it."
The Patriots will honor 15 people with its "Difference Maker" award throughout the season, as part of its "Celebrate Volunteerism" initiative, which was established nine years ago by the Kraft family and New England Patriots Foundation to recognize community volunteers and emphasize the importance of volunteer work.
"Volunteerism is at the heart of giving back and bettering our communities," said Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft in a statement. "We will continue to honor and thank the many deserving volunteers in our region that are often not recognized for their valuable contributions. Through this Celebrate Volunteerism initiative, we hope to inspire Patriots fans to make a difference and become lifelong volunteers."
Now a staff sergeant in the Massachusetts National Guard, Sweeney has volunteered with the Military Friends Foundation for a decade, and has spent the last six years sitting on its Board of Directors. Throughout his tenure, his work advocating for financial support for Gold Star families, which refers to families that have lost a loved one in military service, has been a standout, the team said.
Sweeney's efforts have helped raised about $200,000 annually for Gold Star families through the foundation's "Heroes Salute" program, which helps provide support following their loss, such as covering funeral expenses, transportation and lodging, according to the team.
His leadership led to the creation of the foundation's "Warrior MWR" program, which brings together veterans, military families, caregivers and families of the fallen for free activities before, during and after a deployment. Through the program, combat veterans provide support to fellow veterans in a tension-free setting, according to the team.
But it's more than just his work with the nonprofit. Throughout his tenure as Lynn's veterans services director, Sweeney has been an "advocate, mentor and shoulder to lean on for hundreds of military members and their families," according to the team.
"Volunteerism is the backbone of any strong community," said Sweeney in a statement. "That's no more true than when it comes to veterans and their families. The bottom line is that we have to take care of one another."
Sweeney and his fellow difference makers will be honored during a special ceremony at the Patriots final regular season home game, which will be played against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Dec. 29.
Fans are encouraged to nominate a local volunteer for the weekly award by visiting the team's website.