Rancho Santa Fe resident Tim Shanahan has become proudly invested in Flag for Hope, a nationwide social movement of people coming together to recognize America’s shared humanity and send a message of peace and hope for the future.
“It’s an effort to pledge allegiance and try to unify the United States again,” Shanahan said. “If I can bring attention to the flag like this and all the outstanding citizens across the country, maybe we can do some good.”
Flag for Hope began as a pop-up art project started by artist and Army veteran Marcus Antonio. The goal is to collect about 4,000 American hand and finger impressions in red, white and blue paint on a giant canvas to create the American flag. They plan to travel to more than 150 cities in the country in their efforts.
Also, the 50 stars on the flag will represent iconic Americans who have contributed to the strength and well-being of the country. Stars so far include Muhammad Ali, Sandra Day O’Connor and John McCain.
Flag for Hope has been collecting fingerprints since August and had initially intended to present the flag and an accompanying documentary to the Smithsonian Institution on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. But the movement has become so big that they are now aiming for February 2016.
Shanahan grew up in West Allis, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee, five blocks from the home of 1994 Olympics gold medal speed skater Dan Jansen and his family.
The origins for Shanahan’s involvement in Flag for Hope came from Jansen and Mike Eruzione, from the 1980 gold medal-winning Olympic hockey team, who contacted Shanahan to ask if he could connect the project with some of his notable friends. Chris Cavedon of Rhode Island, who has contributed $2 million of his own money to help fund the project, had contacted the pair of Olympians.
Shanahan is an Olympian himself, having been an alternate on the Olympic men’s handball team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. He was in the Olympic Village when 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed by a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September.
Since the 1970s, Shanahan has been close friends with Muhammad Ali, writing the book, “Running With The Champ,” to be released by Simon & Schuster next year. Shanahan was able to get Ali involved in Flag for Hope, as well as get the prints of other celebrity participants like Bill Gates, Brian Wilson, Blake Shelton and Kris Kristofferson.
Shanahan has known Kristofferson for years and said the Army veteran, singer and actor is deeply patriotic and very proud of his father, who was a U.S. Air Force major general.
“He said when he looks at the flag he only thinks of his brothers who fought in the war, saying, ‘All gave some, but some gave all,’” he said of Kristofferson, who is a star on the flag.
Shanahan also submitted his childhood friend Bob Wieland to be a star on the flag.Wieland is a Vietnam War veteran whom President Ronald Reagan once called “Mr. Inspiration.” Wieland lost both legs in the war and went on to become the first and only double amputee to complete the Kona Ironman without a wheelchair.
Shanahan set everything aside to focus on Flag for Hope and has traveled to cities “non-stop” to keep building on the flag.
“It’s a great privilege and honor to do what we’re doing,” he said.
The stories of everyday Americans who participate are all truly moving and touching, he said.
In New Orleans, the flag got the prints of restaurant owner Allen Jaegar, whose family has lost their business three times to hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina. They persevered to save and restore the home and business they created.
In Maine, the project visited the “Freeport Flag Ladies,” who have waved their American flags every Tuesday since 9/11. In Arizona, a 95-year-old World War II veteran who was in the hospital recovering from a leg amputation put his fingerprints on the flag. The team brought the flag to him in the hospital.
In Minnesota, Anne Sweeney, whose brother was on the plane that struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, shared her story and prints. In Massachusetts, Rick and Dick Hoyt of Team Hoyt joined the flag. Dick Hoyt has run the Boston Marathon 32 times with his son Rick, who has been in a wheelchair his entire life because of cerebral palsy.
In San Diego, Shanahan thought of Bertrand Hug, the owner of Rancho Santa Fe’s Mille Fleurs restaurant and downtown’s Bertrand at Mister A’s, as an ideal addition to the flag and someone who would be a fine representation of the city.
“Bertrand and his wife, Denise, are two of the most patriotic people in the country,” Shanahan said. “I knew this would be perfect for him.”
Hug placed his fingerprints on the Flag for Hope atop Mister A’s, with San Diego sparkling below. Shanahan said it was a great moment, hearing Hug explain what the flag means to him.
“I am a French-American, and I would have never achieved what I have achieved in America in France,” Hug said. “When I look at the American flag, I think of freedom and opportunity.
“I’m just a simple owner of two outstanding restaurants in San Diego, so proud to be an American ... I will never stop thanking America for this opportunity to be a successful American.”