Miami was an amazing adventure for the Flag for Hope team. The weather was warm and the welcome we received was even warmer! We connected with some truly amazing people, like Maddie Cartagena, a mother of two and active member of the Miami community.
Maddie spotted our team while we were gathering impressions at the Miami fire station number 2. She has been an advocate and close friend of the local fire department for several years and, when she saw the flag, she knew she had to swing by and see what they were up to.
Said Maddie, “I thought: I know these guys, are they doing a fundraiser? Why didn’t anyone tell me!” Once she learned about the Flag for Hope mission, she was 100% on board!
Maddie has been an active volunteer since her childhood in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. She began her life-long love affair with community outreach in Far Rockaway, helping the elderly and providing social services such as HIV testing and finding education opportunities for those who couldn’t afford them. The program eventually lost its funding, but Maddie continued with her efforts regardless of payment. She simply refused to let the people who had been depending on her go without help.
Maddie has continued her valiant efforts to support those in need for more than 20 years. In Miami and in the social media world, she is known as the Guardian of Heroes (#guardianofheroes) due to her passionate work with veterans, police officers, and firefighters. “I’m an advocate for these men and women. I’m totally protective of them,” Maddie said, “That’s how the title came to be.” When she saw the atrocious state of the ratty, flat mattresses the firefighters at Fire Station 2 were sleeping on, she created public pressure to have the beds replaced. She campaigned the public for donations and, a few days later, the firefighters were given brand new beds. Though Maddie’s outreach had been so successful that the department received several offers from donors, the city responded to her plea and replaced the beds!
For Maddie, the Flag is a symbol of the people who sacrifice their time, their safety, and their personal freedoms in order to maintain the safety and freedom that we enjoy every day. “When I look [at the flag] I see military members, police officers, firefighters, teachers, paramedics. I see my kids’ faces, your face, the world’s face. Where can you go to start a new life and have the opportunity to do so? I don’t know any other place that you can do that. [The flag] represents freedom,” said Maddie. She has been incredibly supportive of the Flag for Hope project, not only in her participation but also in joining the team as a volunteer, and was thrilled to see a movement that aims to bring back the Flag as a symbol of the hope and unity it was always meant to represent.
We hope to honor the people who make sacrifices for our freedom everyday—and that includes people like Maddie. Without support from civilians who care, many veterans and civil servants who have been exposed to dangerous or horrific circumstances are often left to deal with their trauma alone. Her hard work and big heart have had a healing effect on the heroes of the Miami community, with word spreading as far as Europe that she is someone heroes can turn to.
Collecting your unique stories is the heart and soul of the Flag for Hope mission. We always look forward to hearing about the amazing people of this country and we encourage YOU to come to the next Flag for Hope event and make your impression!
Want to see more? Visit the Miami Photo Gallery!