Helping Hands for Freedom is a national non-profit dedicated to supporting military children and families facing injury, loss and deployment.
HHFF aims to improve children's lives through compassion, honor, mentorship and leadership programs.


Helping Hands for Freedom has assembled a rare combination of passion, experience, creativity and leadership to serve its mission. Expertise in program deliver comes from those who serve our country and understand what needs to be done in the military community. Management comes from passion and experience and a willingness to sacrifice and lead others. Leadership and direction comes from business leaders in the community who have built and managed private sector businesses and understand what needs to be done to achieve success at a local and national level.

SSG Patrick Shannon - Vice President/Director
SSG Patrick Shannon
  • Vice President/Director

SSG Shannon is a United States Marine Corps veteran with a distinguished service record including “Operation Restore Hope” in Somalia. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his wounds and heroism at Al Hyria Station in the city of Ramadi, in the deadly province of Al Anbar. He received the Sam Walton Hero Award from Wal-Mart, and is a national spokesperson for the wounded.

Shannon spent six months at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he spent time talking to other wounded soldiers. This experience was very eye-opening for him. He soon realized that none of the families of the fallen or the wounded were being helped, so he got the idea of starting his own 501(c)(3) organization to fill that need. That organization is Helping Hands for Freedom.

Rodney Smith, President/Secretary Helping Hands for Freedom
Rodney Smith
  • President/Secretary
  • Director

Rod attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he starred as a wide receiver and punt returner. His senior year he led the nation in punt returns for touchdowns. Playing for the legendary Nebraska coach, Tom Osborne, and in the NFL under coaches, Mike Shanahan and Marty Schottenheimer, Rod learned the discipline, dedication, and structure necessary to succeed.

A passionate leader with integrity and a strong work ethic, Rod's over 26 years of experience in the non-profit industry and the financial field allows for Rod to best serve clients' charitable interests. His years of experience working with donors, corporate giving, family foundations, and charitable divisions position him to best serve clients wishing to leave a legacy and protect their estate. He holds Series 7 & Series 65 Securities Licenses, life, and health insurance licenses.

His lifetime of leadership in the non-profit environment has allowed the organizations he founded to serve more than 140,000 at-risk children including over 3,500 military children and families of the fallen, wounded, and deployed. As a consultant, Rod shares with clients his extensive knowledge in charitable giving as it relates to 501c3 non-profit organizations, private foundations, and donor advisory funds.

Rod resides in San Diego, California.

Eric Snelz, CEO/Executive Director of Helping Hands for Freedom
Eric Snelz
  • CEO/Executive Director

Mr. Snelz has thirty plus years in marketing and sales. He has worked both in corporate America with a Fortune 500 company as well as his most recent ventures as a entrepreneur. Currently he is the CEO of Helping Hands for Freedom. He brings his expertise in marketing and the digital arena to HHFF in order to increase awareness of our mission to serve the families of the fallen, wounded, and deployed.

Mr. Snelz was born in Peoria, Illinois and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. He fled the harsh winters to Tucson, Arizona and is an alumnus of the University of Arizona.

His interest in Helping Hands for Freedom is fueled by his son’s experience as a United States Marine who served two tours in Afghanistan. His son’s recollections and exposure to the difficulties experienced by both returning veterans and the families who lose a member to the conflict, convinced Mr. Snelz to become involved in our mission.

Michelle Caraballo - Treasurer/Director
Michelle Caraballo
  • Treasurer/Director

Michelle Caraballo currently serves as Director, Public Affairs and Government Relations for Walmart Stores Inc responsible for the state legislative and public policy matters for the Illinois and Missouri region. In her career with Walmart, Michelle has held various leadership positions starting as a store manager, leading supercenters in both Florida and Illinois with businesses totaling over $175 million. She went on to Walmart International where she worked in China with the Global Business Process Team focusing on the operational efficiencies of the stores in market. In addition, Michelle was the Director, Global Leadership Development focusing on the accelerated development of high potential leaders within the business. Michelle is a board member of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) and the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE) in Chicago. Michelle is the recipient of the Young Hispanic Corporate Achiever (HACR) and Experto Award (HACE) awards.

Prior to joining Walmart, Michelle served on Active Duty with the US Army as an Ordnance officer in the 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, KS where she was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq with the 4IBCT as part of the “surge” operation. Under her leadership, the B Co 610th BSB maintenance operation was awarded the prestigious Department of Defense Maintenance Excellence Award and the Army’s Award for Maintenance Excellence Award (AAME).

She has an MBA from Capella University and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is currently finishing her thesis on US H1-A Visa Reform for a MA in International Relations from American University in Washington, DC.

Chad Probst
Chad Probst
  • Board Member

Chad Probst currently serves as the VP of Sales and Business Development for BillingTree, a payment technology company based in Phoenix. BillingTree has been a lead sponsor for the past few years for HHFF. Through 20+ years of sales and leadership experience, he brings his work ethic and sense of gratitude to HHFF and the military families he serves. He will work relentlessly on increasing corporate and individual support and involvement for HHFF.

Chad grew up in Decatur, IL, graduated from Millikin University in 1994, and moved to Scottsdale in 1996 where he met Rod Smith on a basketball court. A friendship developed along with a few bruises (Rod likes to foul). He saw Rod’s commitment to the community and kids which inspired him to want to help.

Today, Chad is married to his wife Stefani, has two little boys, Colt and Trent, and serves military families under his grandfather’s remembrance, Robert “Peck Wilcox. Peck was a WWII B17 bombardier in the 8th Air Force that was shot down in action in the Boardeaux region of France and rescued by a French family that hid him for 8 months until the war ended. Chad is honored and humbled to serve military families.

Hugo E. Salazar, board member Helping Hands for Freedom
Hugo E. Salazar
  • Board Member
  • Program and Outreach Committee Chair

Hugo E. Salazar is a retired military veteran with 30 years of commissioned service in the U.S. Army. He retired as a Major General (two star general) after a career laden with leadership responsibilities in a wide range of duties and assignments. With over thirty awards and decorations, his awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and Bronze Star.

When asked to identify his greatest success or achievement in the military, he cites his involvement in creating The Arizona Coalition for Military Families and The Total Force Team which both were developed to take care of and assist military members and their families. His primary reason for  becoming a board member of Helping Hands for Freedom was to continue his commitment to serve and assist military families.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois,  General Salazar is an avid golfer who was introduced to the game at a young age when he started caddying. As a result of caddying, he ultimately earned a scholarship from the Chick Evans Foundation and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from Indiana University.  He remains an avid golfer and currently lives with his blended family in Arizona.

Joy Sprink National Community Liaison Officer
Joy Sprink
  • National Community Liaison Officer

As Helping Hands for Freedom’s National Community Liaison, Joy serves the Gold Star and Veteran community and their families across the nation. She engages with government and nonprofit agencies as well as corporate entities to create partnerships and support for our military community.

Joy’s expertise in Special Event Production, Military Transitional Workshop Development, fundraising and grant writing are the result of a career as an experienced creative business strategist and award winning college educator.

This year, Joy was nominated and selected to participate in Take the Lead: 50 Women Who Can Change the World, Non Profit Sector 2017. This women’s executive leadership conference focuses on women who are making a positive difference in their organizations and impact in their communities.

Joy continues to represent Helping Hands for Freedom on the Arizona Department of Veterans Services Women’s Workshop Coalition to make impact on the future success for women Veterans. She was responsible with partnering with The Veterans Directory and Vets Community Connections to create 2017 Designing Your Transformation: A Summit for Women Veterans in October of this year.

Joy’s family has strong roots across the military service spectrum: Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force. She is dedicated and ready to serve the needs of our Gold Star and military Veterans and their families across the nation.

Jeffrey T. Smith, Colorado Board Liaison
Jeffrey T. Smith
  • Colorado Board Liaison

Mr. Smith is celebrating his 18th year in the financial services industry helping his clients with their unique insurance and investment needs. HIs experience with American Express, New York Life, Foresters, and most recently Liberty Mutual, has provided him with the experience to take on the challenge of becoming an Independent Producer (MAC Insurance) and Investment Advisor Representative (Hurley Investments). Currently he is the Circle of Heroes Advisory Committee Liaison for Helping Hands For Freedom - Colorado. Working in close connection with committee members and volunteers, Jeff will lead in the areas of fundraising, recruiting, and event logistics. The current passion project is the construction of HHFF's House of Healing that will help bring an end to the 20+ suicides per day that plague our military men and women suffering from the effects of PTSD.

Jeffrey T, as he is known to friends, was born and raised in Denver, Colorado where he currently resides with his wife of 29 years Ms. Cheri Hackett. Cheri and Jeff are the proud parents of three daughters, and one grandson.

Paul Gable, Midwest Community Liaison, Helping Hands for Freedom
Paul Gable
  • Midwest Community Liaison

With over 20 years' experience in journalism, Paul Gable came to work for Helping Hands for Freedom in 2015, serving as Communications Director for Route for the Brave. A native of Boston, Gable resides in Indiana with his wife and three children and is active in his community, serving as team captain of the All Pro Dad's initiative for Triton Central Schools and is a member of the Shelbyville Rotary. 

"Helping Hands for Freedom signifies all that is great with country--helping those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  As a true non-profit, Helping Hands for Freedom spends time helping military families and soldiers.  I am very honored to be a part of such a great organization."

Dave Dix, Golf Advisory Committee for Helping Hands for Freedom
Dave Dix
  • Golf Advisory Committee

Dave Dix was born and raised in Flint, Michigan and graduated from Northern Michigan University in 1983.  He moved to Phoenix in 1986 and married and started a family in 1990.  He is very proud of his wife, Christy, and 2 boys, Logan and Tanner, who are both currently attending Northern Arizona University.  Dave spent 22 years in corporate America before transitioning to a real estate career in 2007.  He is currently the owner and designated broker of Long Realty Camelback, with 45 agents in 2 offices.  Dave is also a committee member of the Fiesta Bowl Committee.

Dave has been working with Helping Hands for Freedom since January of 2014 and has been on the golf tournament committee for 2 years.  It's been an honor for him to be a part of this extremely important organization, which does so much good for our brave veterans and families. Dave looks forward to further increasing his support and involvement in the organization.

David Roth, Volunteer, Helping Hands for Freedom
David Roth
  • Volunteer

A 20 year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Mr. Roth has served in operations, investigations, and administration.  David is currently assigned as a detective with the Department of Homeland Security Division.  He has 16 years of experience as a representative with Police and Firemen's Insurance Association and has been elected to the Supreme Legislative Body. In 2012, he served on the Super Bowl Joint Operations Group in Indianapolis in what many experts consider one of the top Super Bowl city performances in the history of the game.  His vast experience in analysis and strategic planning will help HHFF vault to the next level .  

A 1991 graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a B.A. in Sociology, he is a Stanley K. Lacy Scholarship recipient, and a Harvard Kennedy School Leadership attendee. David is married with three step children and two grandchildren and is a parishioner of Nativity Catholic Church.

Stefy Ruiz - Program Coordinator-Colorado
Stefy Ruiz
  • Program Coordinator-Colorado

Stefy Ruiz is our Program Coordinator. She honorably served in the United States Air Force from 1998-2006, during Operation Southern Watch, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Stefy has been active in the non-profit sector since 2000, contributing as a volunteer for the Holidays 4 the Homeless, the American Red Cross, Salt Lake City VA Facility, Phoenix VA Facility, Stockport Development Project, Central Iowa Shelter and Services, the American Legion, Open Door Mission and the Hope Recovery Center for Homeless Veterans. As a US Air Force veteran, active duty military spouse and mother of 2 boys Stefy knows firsthand the daily challenges that our military families face. It’s with this unique insight that she is able to identify, develop and execute programs that are the most critical to our military and their families.