2013 Patriots' Fan of the Year helps homeless vets

Oct 16, 2014

Claire Bourgault of Rhode Island is a longtime Patriots fan. She remembers taking her family to watch the team practice and being excited about the “Golden Boy” at quarterback. ("He was young, he was handsome, what more could you ask for?") She also remembers standing and cheering when the team won Super Bowls. But, it was more than her devotion to the team that earned her Patriots Fan of the Year honors.

Bourgault was contemplating retirement after 30 years as a nurse at the Providence VA Medical Center when her boss approached her with an idea. The VA wanted to start a clinic for homeless veterans – and they wanted her help. Bourgault was interested, but didn’t know much about the population. "I never realized what a need there was out there in the community,” she said.

When the clinic opened, they advertised their resources and veterans trickled in. Bourgault provided the people she met with medical and housing assistance, and connected them to other community organizations. "Nothing happened quickly,” she said. "But, over time, we accomplished a lot." After seeing the tremendous need, she stayed on with the VA for seven more years. She described the experience as eye-opening. "They'll teach you everything you need to know. It was very rewarding.”

Bourgault’s granddaughter entered her into the Patriots Fan of the Year contest, which is sponsored by Bank of America, without her knowledge. So, it came as a shock when she was named one of three semi-finalists and invited onto the field at a game. "I thought they were pulling my leg. I kept saying, ‘You're kidding me, you're kidding me!’" She was awarded the Joseph R. Mastrangelo Memorial Trophy later in the season for her career of service.

The reigning Patriots Fan of the Year is optimistic about the team’s chances this year, predicting a return to the title game. "They all need to click,” she said. “Last year, they had a lot of new players; they weren't on the same page. They had it together [in the preseason] more so than last year."

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Helping military service members