Edmonds-Woodway’s Moses Martin lines up before a play against Marysville Pilchuck on Sept. 2 at Marysville Pilchuck High School. (Aaron Benson)

Edmonds-Woodway’s Moses Martin lines up before a play against Marysville Pilchuck on Sept. 2 at Marysville Pilchuck High School. (Aaron Benson)

Edmonds-Woodway senior tackles fundraising for local veterans

Moses Martin has dedicated his senior football season to raising money for Heroes’ Cafe, a local veteran outreach organization.

Moses Martin is tackling a cause near and dear to his heart.

The Edmonds-Woodway High School linebacker has dedicated his senior football season to raising money for Heroes’ Cafe in Lynnwood, an organization focused on outreach in the local veterans community.

Moses and his father, Earl Martin, created the “Team Mojo” project just before the start of the season. The pair set up a GoFundMe page for people to make donations towards Heroes’ Cafe. People can pledge donations for every tackle or sack Moses records this season, or they can make direct donations. Moses’ stats are posted weekly on the “Team Mojo” Facebook page for those making pledges based on performance.

Moses said he was looking for a way to bring more meaning and impact to his final year of high school football.

“I needed to think of something that I really truly cared about,” he said.

Moses, who plans to join the Air Force, has a long family history of military service. Earl Martin said he can trace his family’s lineage back to service in the American Revolutionary War and Civil War. Moses’ great grandfather, Bill Jones, 98, is the last known surviving member of the USS Jamestown’s World War II Navy crew, according to the family. And Moses’ grandfather, Earl Martin Sr., served 15 years in the Coast Guard.

Naturally, finding a way to support veterans came to the forefront of Moses’ mind when brainstorming ways to make his senior season about more than football.

The Martins reached out to the Snohomish County veterans support services office to see how they could get involved. They were connected with Heroes’ Cafe Director Gary Walderman, who was ecstatic to work with the Martins on the project.

“When I got that phone call, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh. We gotta meet. Let’s talk about this. This is fantastic,’” Walderman said. “Not that it was benefiting me. It’s that this individual was stepping up.”

Walderman, who served 21 years in the Air Force, said the idea for Heroes’ Cafe began in August of 2016. It became a reality by the following January.

He said the goal was to create a place for veterans to congregate with others who share the same experiences. An effort that would hopefully combat the high suicide rate among veterans, which Walderman said was at 22 per day when the group started.

According to a 2021 report released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the suicide rate among veterans was nearly two times the rate of non-veteran adults in 2019.

“The overall goal was to get veterans to talk to each other and get their stuff of their chest so they didn’t resort to suicide,” Walderman said. “We had to do something about it.

“Basically we wanted to bring veterans together and let them figure things out among themselves, because the veterans grow up in a brotherhood and sisterhood in the military,” he added. “… Then they left the military and went back into the civilian world, and it didn’t work out for a lot of folks.”

Heroes’ Cafe helps veterans with a wide range of needs. Walderman said the group helps its members connect with local food banks, housing programs and other community services. It also helps provide veterans with clothes, furniture and gas cards.

“We want to make sure that their life is better,” Walderman said. “If that takes a gas card, buying a computer or if it takes getting them into food banks or those kinds of things, … in some way we’re going to do something to make their life better.”

Moses had the chance to attend a Heroes’ Cafe meeting after his fundraiser started. Walderman said the 17-year-old was a popular guest among a group that includes many in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

“He was just embraced,” Walderman said. “… I tell everybody it’s not about the money. This kid could raise $10 for us and I’d be more than ecstatic, because this kid is out in the community and he’s talking to veterans.”

Moses said meeting the group’s members was a special experience.

“They were just so nice,” he said. “The way they talked to me, I could just feel that they were cool.”

Moses’ goal is to raise $9,999 for Heroes’ Cafe, a number based on the No. 9 he wears for the Warriors football team. As of Wednesday afternoon, his GoFundMe page has brought in over $4,000. Walderman said he’s received around another $500 from other veterans organizations because of Moses.

“It’s been unreal,” Moses said. “… I didn’t expect there to be so much support. I kind of expected it to be … smaller. A lot of people have been very, very kind.”

Moses’ teammates have also shown support to the mission by wearing a sticker on the back of their helmets that reads “Warriors for Warriors Heroes’ Cafe” with Moses’ No. 9 filled in with the stars and stripes of the American flag.

“We’re just so honored and so happy that he’s doing this,” Walderman said. “… It’s just awesome. I’ll never forget him. That’s for sure.”

Heroes’ Cafe

The group holds meetings from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. every fourth Tuesday of the month at New Life Church in Lynnwood, every second Tuesday at the Shoreline Scottish Rite Hall and is adding a meeting every third Tuesday at the Carl Gipson Center in Everett. Coffee is available by 8:30 a.m., pastries are served for breakfast and lunch starts at 11 a.m.

Anyone interested in more information on Heroes’ Cafe can email Walderman at americanheroescafe@gmail.com.

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