Alums Team Up to Support Military Families – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Alums Team Up to Support Military Families

Twelve years after sharing a suite in Emerson Hall, Sara Wingerath-Schlanger ’02 and Elyssa Koidin Schmier ’04 collaborated to create a blog post on about Special Ops Survivors, a small nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to serving the surviving spouses of active duty Special Operations personnel who have died in combat or training since 1980.

“I believe that if you have been in the military, you deserve every opportunity to receive support, and if you’re not in the military, you have the obligation to provide that support to them,” says Wingerath-Schlanger, who serves as executive director of Special Ops Survivors, a position she began in 2015.

As the National Budget Campaign Director for MomsRising, an organization aimed at supporting policies that create economic justice for moms and children, Schmier recently piloted a biweekly blog series, Military Monday, to give a voice to moms in military families. MomsRising operates at the national, state and local level, with more than one million members nationwide, working with businesses and the media to present appropriate representations of moms. Shortly after launching the Military Monday series, Schmier connected with Wingerath-Schlanger about her work with Special Ops Survivors.

“I thought that was a story line that needs to be told. Unfortunately there are a number of families and partners who have lost loved ones while in military duty, and we don’t talk about it,” says Schmier. “For me personally, this is a big issue because I see a lot of politicians using military families when it serves their purposes, but forgetting that they are like any other family that has multifaceted issues and are in need of programs,” such as the Special Ops Survivors.

Wingerath-Schlanger says building connections across the nonprofit sector is important and the link between Special Ops Survivors and MomsRising has been significant.

“People often think nonprofit work equals fundraising, but it’s really the networking that comes from this. Without that, we wouldn’t have people enrolling and we wouldn’t have volunteers. We have huge programs that are possible because people want to support this cause,” she says.

In her role with Special Ops Survivors, Wingerath-Schlanger focuses on program administration, constituent outreach, strategic partnerships and long term growth plans.

“When I was at HWS, I figured out that I had a huge passion for philanthropy,” says Wingerath-Schlanger, who was an Africana studies major, an education minor, and studied abroad in New Zealand. She later earned a master’s degree in public administration and nonprofit management from Suffolk University. “I saw the posting for Special Ops Survivors and something clicked immediately, it was so many things I was looking for and it has been fantastic.”

“It was fun to reconnect with Sara and work on something so important together,” reflects Schmier, who studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, was a political science major and men’s studies minor. Schmier later earned a master’s degree in government from Johns Hopkins University.

The blog post on Special Ops Survivors can be found here. For more information about MomsRising, or to share a story, contact Schmier at For more information about Special Ops Survivors, contact Wingerath-Schlanger at