Rob “Waldo” Waldman has never done things on a small scale. But even he admits he’s taken on an enormous challenge this time.
The Dunwoody resident and former fighter pilot is planning the first fundraiser for his nonprofit, the Wingman Foundation.
Waldman and his twin brother Dave started the organization to raise awareness and money for various groups that support military personnel and their families. To that end, they were inspired to launch the “Ultimate Wingman Georgia Heroes Banquet” on Nov. 15. They hope it will pack the Cobb Energy Centre.
“It’s my first fundraiser, and it is ambitious,” said Waldman, 44. “It’s been consuming me, but the first time you do something like this, it’s bound to be overwhelming.”
Waldman expects the intense planning to pay off with a crowd of supporters willing to pay $100 a person to show their support for veterans, specifically three Georgia-based service members who have gone beyond the call of duty.
It’s just one of the ways Waldman, a motivational speaker and former business executive, promotes the causes of veterans around the country.
“I want to be a conduit of awareness for all the nonprofits that have professionals in place to help our veterans,” he said. “I do it at all my events where I talk about service and commitment.”
Waldman has developed a passion for helping veterans overcome the myriad of problems they face as they transition into civilian life.
In 2010, he published “Never Fly Solo,” a motivational book that applies lessons he learned in the military to daily life, and he donates proceeds to veterans’ causes.
“In the book, I relate everything to the ‘wingman’ concept of having trusting relationships with people,” said Waldman, an Air Force Academy graduate who flew 65 missions in Iraq and Serbia. “So when the missiles of change are launched in your life, you have someone you can trust.”
Waldman’s own wingman is his twin Dave, a Charlotte resident who followed a different path as a business executive, but who stepped up to help his brother in founding the Wingman foundation. Growing up on Long Island, the two shared a room until they were 18 and have stayed best friends.
“I wanted to be a pilot, but the military wasn’t really for me, so I went into sales and business,” said Dave Waldman. “But I was Rob’s wingman, helping him make the transition from that strict military environment into civilian life when he came out. And he’s mine, always encouraging and inspiring me, holding me accountable.”
Through the foundation and the upcoming event, the brothers honor others who show that same spirit of support.
“The foundation is a way to lend a ‘wing’ to people who need help by connecting them with organizations that can support them,” said Dave Waldman. “We then thought it would be great to find other wingmen who are overcoming obstacles and lifting others up, and honor them.”
Information about the foundation, as well as tickets to the Nov. 15 dinner and cocktail event, are online at www.theultimatewingman.com.