Actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise -- famous for his role as wounded veteran Lt. Dan in the film "Forrest Gump" and recognized for his support of the military community -- has again found a way to pay it forward, this time to those on the front lines of a public health threat.
Sinise started the nonprofit organization, The Gary Sinise Foundation, to support military service members, veterans and first responders across the country. But as the novel coronavirus began to spread across the United States in late March, the actor saw the need to support essential workers dealing with the pandemic firsthand.
"The challenges facing our public health workers, our first responders, our military, the challenges that they and their families are facing are very, very demanding and nonprofits can play a great role in supporting," Sinise said in a video announcing the formation of the campaign.
The Emergency COVID-19 Combat Service campaign was created.
On Tuesday, the campaign's support efforts reached San Diego when about 500 protective face shields and two-dozen jugs of hand sanitizer were donated to the San Diego Police Department for use by officers on the front lines.
"We're just so happy that an organization like the Gary Sinise Foundation is willing to make a donation such as this to the San Diego Police Department," Lt. Shawn Takeuchi said.
The Emergency COVID-19 Combat Service campaign has raised more than $1 million since it was launched on April 1. The funds have gone towards COVID-19 relief efforts across 26 different states, according to the Gary Sinise Foundation.
The group has made donations to nearly 60 first responder departments in the form of personal protective equipment (PPE), decontamination equipment and more.
Takeuchi said donations like these are essential to keeping their officers and the community safe.
"Our services never stop and in order to keep those services going, we have to make sure our men and women in the San Diego Police Department are healthy," Takeuchi said.
The foundation has also provided meals to tens of thousands of frontline workers and Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country.
The foundation also offers financial assistance to health care workers, service members, veterans, first responders, and their families who have been impacted by the coronavirus.
Sinise has a huge footprint in the San Diego military community. For years, the actor has hosted the Invincible Spirit Festival at Naval Medical Center San Diego to show appreciation to veterans and their families. The actor performs at those events as part of the musical group, the Lt. Dan Band. The band's name was inspired by Sinise's iconic Forrest Gump character.