Brigid O’Donoghue grew up in a large family of Irish descent. The oldest daughter in a family with nine kids found responsibility knocking at her door early in life. With limited financial resources, the Milwaukee, WI, native worked at jobs after school and on weekends so she could attend the area’s best private educational facilities. Her physically and mentally challenged younger brother was an inspiration during Brigid’s formative years. (read the Prologue below). Her brother’s physical challenges created a calling in her heart and inspired her to reach out to others who were less fortunate and needed her help. Unfortunately, her own personal health challenges threw her a curve ball. After numerous lengthy stays in and out of the hospital, including major surgery to remove scar tissue from a high fever, Brigid began picking up her life where it had left off years before.
The entrepreneur in her led her to begin her own business selling tractor-trailer loads of ground bark to landscapers throughout the Midwest. In addition, she blazed new trails by trucking bagged cottonseed from the cotton gin producers in the South to feed mills in the North. At the same time, she raised two wonderful children, despite continual abuse and lack of support in her relationship. Her daughter, Lindsey, is a Registered Nurse (like her grandmother) and lives in Milwaukee. Her son, Kenny, is a journeyman and works in the refrigeration industry in San Antonio, TX. Brigid’s children are dear to her heart and provide inspiration in her life and work.
In 1998, Brigid put her feed mill and trucking knowledge to work and started a new specialized company called Bio-Tec Research, Inc., which formulates and markets North America’s highest quality deer and elk products. In addition, she forged a limited-edition fashion line called “Charnel” that features unique, tailored outdoor wear.
When a deer food customer asked Brigid if she knew of any critically ill hunters who would be interested in a free deer hunt at his ranch, the seeds were sown for the birth of USSA. Brigid contacted a Texas man with cancer who flew to the ranch and harvested a nice buck. From that point, USSA’s wheels were in motion. By helping him realize his dream and spending time with this man, Brigid was inspired and knew in her heart she could pass happiness to others who were dealing with life-threatening illnesses. With a clear vision, she developed the all-volunteer United Special Sportsman Alliance in fall of 2000.
Through USSA, Brigid observed the inspiration passed on in her work creates special moments that make even the most difficult of life’s challenges especially meaningful. There is never a time that she does not look back and realize how fortunate she is to have overcome so many personal challenges. That personal healing keeps her striving to do all she can to bring joy and hope into the hearts of others. There is a special place in her heart for those children, adults, veterans and their families with which she shares her time. For Brigid, they are always a special addition to her own family.
Brigid is continuously motivated by the incredible love and life-long connections created between so many special people within the charity. The time shared with these wonderful kids, injured veterans, and their families leaves her knowing that neither she nor USSA recipients are ever truly alone!
“The greatest impact of this charity is helping provide the inspiration for others to get involved,” she said. “We pass on our vision to see beyond the pain, disability, and hardships of serious illnesses. We know we all will endure loss, but the sharing in our work has created a mechanism of hope and healing for the children, the families and for those who help by volunteering their time and resources for this important cause”.
“I have been greatly inspired and at the same time humbled by the positive national impact this vision has created,” she said.
Brigid works with television, radio, print, and digital media across the country and the response from those who get involved is overwhelming. Her plan is to inspire persons to become optimistically intertwined in the lives of others and make a real difference. Her efforts have been successful beyond the charity’s expectations, with thousands of people experiencing a unique way to share hope and create new friendships.
Brigid plans to continue working with a strong Board of Directors, Major Operating Officers, Advisory Council, and Youth Outdoor Leaders to build a charity of caring people – all with the same mission – to provide joy and hope in the lives of needy children and injured veterans. “I feel very blessed to be given the opportunity to operate God’s charity,” she said.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”