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Long humbled and inspired by those willing to defend a nation, Bill Christman decided it was time he stepped forward.

Shortly after selling his business a successful, Quad Cities based entity Christman joined the company that purchased it. With his new post came freedoms he never had when he was the boss, allowing him to chase a longtime desire to give back to those who protect our freedoms.

“I simply believed it was time to do more than write a check,” said Christman, the longtime owner of Christman’s Wildlife Services. “I never had time before to jump in and make a difference; I had a business to worry about. When I sold it and took a job with the company that bought it, I finally had some time to do something I always wanted to do.”

While watching a television special about SEAL Team 6 and the man many say fired the shot that killed terrorist Osama bin Laden, the urge to act fell over Christman.

“I am from a family of veterans, and consider myself to be deeply patriotic,” Christman said. “I have been that way as far as I can remember. I took from that TV show an even greater respect for the elite team that protects us, and for Robert O’Neill, the man who took out bin Laden.”

Christman decided to reach out to O’Neill and was amazed when O’Neill reached back. Christman then learned firsthand how O’Neill’s foundation assists veterans and their families.

That led Christman to form ThanktheSEALs, a Quad Cities based nonprofit group that promotes veterans and honors their loved ones.

Christman founded a fundraising motorcycle ride with guidance from SEALs across the land to benefit families of soldiers who gave their lives for their country.

That ride,
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a monster success, is now in its fourth year.

This year’s ride will take place July 21, and it will be based out of Bettendorf. In years past, local riders have concluded the ride in Des Moines.

“The Des Moines riders have backed this idea,” Christman said of the event. “People understand what it’s about and only want it to be a success.”

The ThanktheSEALs ride is no small undertaking. Sponsors must be secured, and riders must be attracted. It is 365 day second job, but it’s a labor of love for Christman and the ThanktheSEALs team. And no one on the ThanktheSEALs unit is compensated financially.

The satisfaction for all involved comes from honoring those who defend our nation and giving back to the two families selected each year to receive the event’s proceeds. Last year, two families received $20,000 each.

“We have one person who brings to us two families,” Christman said. “We rely heavily on that one person’s recommendation, and trust the work he has done to bring those names to us. Total trust.

“When we decide on a family, we ride to their home and deliver the check. Yes, we ride there at our expense. It is the least we can do. We ask nothing of them, and that money is theirs to do with as they wish.

“It’s quite a sight to see riders pulling into a residential area and up to a house. It’s also a great feeling to hand over that check. The service their loved one gave to their country was personal,
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and so we will always make the delivering of funds personal.”