Brave Charlotte and the GORUCK Tough Family

There’s nothing in this world so motivating as someone you love. For Justin Grimm, it was (and is) his 3 year old daughter Charlotte. She was battling cancer when I met him in Minneapolis in the summer of 2011, and he later told me he wanted to honor her bravery, strength and endurance in that fight. So he signed up for the Challenge.

The Challenge changed GORUCK for the better, forever. We started out a gear company, and over the course of 2010-11, we became a people brand. The only conclusion I can draw is that the people who showed up for the Challenge changed me, also for the better. I failed to anticipate the effect that the Challenge would have on them. And thus on me. It’s been about two years since the first Challenge, and with reflection’s authority I can promise that if GORUCK were just a gear company, I would be doing something else now. And since I can’t imagine a better thing to do than GORUCK, I owe everything to the people who showed up and made it about them.

People and Java of course. It’s funny to think back now to how Java and I drove city to city all summer (2011) long, leading around the next group of adventure seekers who weren’t deterred by the promise of a slice of Special Operations training. I got better week after week at pushing individuals harder to become a more effective team, by giving them more to overcome. And in that process the magic of GORUCK was born. Magic because you built it, whatever GORUCK is and will become. Not us, you. Like Class 49 below — 6 people strong — but before you knew it class sizes in Minneapolis were double, then triple. And I expect that as long as the Challenge is about everyone but yourself, that you’ll always have friends you want to bring into the GORUCK Tough Family.

After I passed out the well earned Tough patches, I chatted with Justin and he told me about Charlotte. He smiled as he thanked me for kicking his ass to the point that he had to overcome something so difficult, saying that it put Charlotte’s struggles in perspective for him. The Challenge is a funny thing like that. We demand more of you because it’s not about you. And it hurts for a while and you hate us till you love us. But at the end you know you’ve shared something special with your team and you get to take that back with you for the rest of your life.

When Justin would later ask us to build Charlotte a pink Radio Ruck, our initial reaction was sorry and we love you and your daughter but we can’t. The Challenge is relatively easy for us to make happen. Manufacturing, not so much. We couldn’t train up sewers fast enough and our vendors weren’t able to train up sewers fast enough, either. The Challenge was exacerbating the problem because it spread awareness and made it harder to meet demand. These are great problems to have, though it was frustrating at the time. And we certainly couldn’t spare anyone to make a one off pink ruck. Even for the best of reasons, like Charlotte. But then the stars aligned, overnight a year later. We started making the Radio Ruck in Bozeman, we got a couple sheets of pink Cordura, and eventually we had Charlotte’s ruck. Justin’s goal was that a father’s ruck would somehow have a superior complement, an even better representation of overcoming adversity. And in his words, it also comes in handy for father/daughter rucks!

We also did a RR Field Pocket for Charlotte, and before you knew it there was a patch to complete the tandem. Morale patches are a big deal in Special Forces and it was always obvious that patches would matter at GORUCK. So when the GORUCK Tough (GRT) Family caught wind of what was going on, GRT’s collectively raised over $10,000 for the Childrens Cancer Research Fund (CCRF) on Charlotte’s behalf. I don’t really have a big Facebook presence, but this is one of those cases where the GORUCK Tough family, via the GORUCK Tough page (open only to those who have passed the Challenge), showed me a thing or two about its value.

Our team in Bozeman above with Charlotte’s ruck. It’s easy to understand that the Challenge is about people given that it’s an event and people take it, together. We build gear so-called behind the scenes, and you’ll likely never meet the people who sew your gear together unless you come to Bozeman for a visit. But my aim is to dispel the myth that robots do all the work and to remind everyone that the gear side is also a people brand. People make the gear, and people run our customer service and we enjoy dealing with people on the other end of the line. And I take every opportunity to remind anyone who will listen that every ruck we build takes hours and hours of American labor to build correctly, which means to our standards of excellence. I digress. My goal is to run a company my grandfathers (1950’s types) would be proud of. And the central tenet — an oldie but a goodie — is that we do whatever it takes to do right by people. But it still goes on for the most part behind the scenes. So it’s nice for our sewers, and the company as a whole, to rally around a cause like we have around Brave Charlotte. In every way it’s a perfect intersection of the gear we make and the events we put on.

It’s just a pink ruck (meaning it’s only a thing), but it means more to us because it means more to Charlotte and her family. People are not numbers, and it’s a lot better to work for people than to work for numbers. And when her name is Charlotte, a budding style icon, and she chooses a pink Radio Ruck to complete her pink outfit, I can’t help but smile and thank God that the Challenge came along and changed us forever.


  1. Benjamin Voetberg says:

    I had the privilege of receiving my subdued Brave Charlotte patch during my 1 year deployment. I happily wore it on my IBA through all my travels in the AOR and gladly told everyone who asked, what it was about and why I wore it. I have traveled a lot this past year and so far it made 8 trips to Kandahar, 2 to Bagram, 3 stays in Manas, once to Shindand and once to Camp Bastion/Leatherneck. It also traveled with me through Germany and UAE on my R&R. It will soon accompany me back to the states, I couldn’t have asked for a better traveling companion this past year!!

  2. Justin Seeley says:

    Awesome story. Heard about GORUCK through a friend on FB. Now, I am a big fan. Keep up the great, inspirational work!

  3. zach says:

    Wonderful write up and great photos as usual. Reading this brings tears to my eyes.
    Thank you to all my fellow GRTs, for showing me so often, what goodness truly is.
    What a great family we are all a part of 🙂

  4. Kevin says:

    Having daughters myself, I fully understand why this becomes such a special undertaking. I’m glad that I can support a company like Goruck through my purchases and I’m praying that Charlotte continues to fight and make a full recovery from cancer. Good job Goruck on making a dads dream come true, and I hope that in the future there is the opportunity for the company to make others dreams come true through a possible custom design program.

    Keep up the great work and thanks for being a Real People company!

  5. C.C. Chapman says:

    What a powerful and touching story. The patch got me, right in the heart.

    Thank you for sharing this story and more importantly thank you for being the man and leader of the company that you are!

  6. Roman Rauhala says:

    Great post, makes me feel good to see what GORUCK is truly about….God bless Charlotte, her family and the GORUCK Cadre and staff…!!

  7. Destiny Bira says:

    Yet another reason why I love being a GRT. These are such a heartfelt and selfless actions. I’m so proud to be a part of this family.

  8. Frank says:

    Posts like this and actions like these are why you have the most passionate and devoted customer base of any company in America. People doing good things for other people makes the world a better place. This is a shining, glowing example of that idea.


  9. Benjamin Strong says:

    I’m the father of a son with Down syndrome. It’s part of the reason I did a Challenge, to better understand some of the struggles he has everyday. I finished, and in the process learned more about myself then I could imagine. I’m proud of my GRT family, and do my best to represent it smartly each day. Thank you Jason, and the legion of GoRuck workers supporting you, for helping us along the way.

  10. Bob Colburn says:

    Absolutely fantastic post – you should be very proud of how much GoRuck has contributed to other people’s lives. We’re very lucky to have your community of inspiration and caring.

    Can’t wait to run with GoRuck in Boston, March 2013…

  11. Josue says:

    Been keeping up with Goruck for the past 2yrs. I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for new posts on the site and I’m saving my nickels and dimes for a GR1. This is my first comment.

    What an incredible post. It’s more inspirational than I can put into words here. Just wow.

    I commend you for embracing this major change in the culture of Goruck and that you and your staff were willing to be changed.

  12. Mike B says:

    Sometimes you guys hit it out of the ball park. Good job! Maybe corny, but I cinched up my GR1 extra tight today.

  13. Honestly, I was on the fence about purchasing a GR1 for my challenge in March in Minneapolis. Really, any bag would work right? After reading this post, I promptly placed my order. Clearly, this is more than a bag, more than a brand, more than an event – this is a family. I hope to be a part of it.

  14. Yami says:

    Truly amazing! This is why I am so excited to do my first challenge and the many more events that will come after! I am so glad I came into contact with your brand! I mean our brand!

  15. Kevin Hall says:

    Jason your company,and dog, are amazing. Keep up the good work and we will keep coming to the events. Thanks for everything you do and have done to make this country great.

  16. Markus Ismael says:

    Dammit, is it okay for a GRT to cry?! Some people value things above all else, some people value people above all else, and some value non-concrete aspects of life….goals, emotions, sentiments, challenges, etc…..Jason, what you did for this little girl and her family touches all of the above. Her quality of life is greatly improved thanks to you and GORUCK.

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