VetFamily: Jon Bon Jovi and his Soul Foundation

Jon Bon Jovi

By rock and roll standards, Jon Bon Jovi leads a non-traditional lifestyle. For starters, he’s been married nearly 20 years with four kids. He's passionate and devoted to his charitable activities. Then there's his band, which next to the Stones, has stood a remarkable test of time. Through it all, Bon Jovi credits his parents as an influence in decisions that have shaped his life. They were, after all, both Marines.

“I really admire that my parents stayed together; they toughed it out, the good and the bad,” he told the London Daily Telegraph. “Everyone worked hard, you came home, you drank your six-pack of beer, you watched TV and you went to bed and did it again the next day. Sunday, you went out the backyard and barbecued, maybe you played golf.”

Jon Bon Jovi's family has made him the person he is today. Semper Fi was a guiding philosophy at home and later on the stage. Household stability and unique career goals rooted the son in 20+ years of record-making gold, rocking stadiums, wild hair, and groupies. The “living out of a suitcase” lifestyle caused disruption and divorce for his other band mates, but not Bon Jovi. His marriage now ranks among Rock and Roll’s longest, sharing company with Bono and Bruce Springsteen.

His bedrock values were formed in Sayreville, NJ, a suburb north of Philadelphia, where he grew up as the oldest of three sons. John Bongiovi Sr. and Carol Sharkey met when both were in the Marine Corps in the late 1950s. “Tough woman. Strong woman. Independent woman,” Jon says of his mother. “My parents were firm believers that anything you want to have, you can have.” “That was one great gift they gave us—a sense of optimism.”

As a businessman, he takes great pride in the management of his long-term enterprise, the rock band that bears his name, as well as his home-grown charitable activities. In 2003, Bon Jovi bought an arena football team, the Philadelphia Soul. At first, he did it out of sheer love for football. “But Philadelphia was also the birthplace of the country—the streets that Washington, Jefferson and Franklin walked on,” he says. He was standing at a hotel window there one night, he adds, “and it all came into focus. I’m looking out at the statue of William Penn on the top of City Hall, and I’m seeing a homeless guy sleeping on the street, and I said, ‘I got it.’”

From there, The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation was born. The organization's goal is “to recognize and maximize the human potential in those affected by poverty and homelessness by offering assistance in establishing programs that provide for permanent, affordable housing, while supporting social services and job training programs.”

From Philadelphia, the Soul Foundation has quickly expanded its work to develop role models on the individual level, corporate level, and community level by developing, promoting, and assisting in innovative solutions to rebuild pride in one's self and one's community - one SOUL at a time. In the last four years, the Foundation has helped fund 151 units of affordable housing in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit, Brooklyn and in Jon's home state of New Jersey.

Importantly, Bon Jovi is helping those who served. In 2008, he and his Soul Foundation joined forces on a $3.3 million donation to support the Veteran's program and upgrade the facilities at St. Elizabeth's Recovery Residence in North Philadelphia. The funds for the residence aid a housing project that provides a structured environment for Veterans. “We’re going to make volunteerism hip,” he told a conference gathering on charitable activities last June.

Jon Bon Jovi's music is loved by millions. And just last Veterans Day, in a Jon Bon Jovi concert reserved exclusively for American service men and women, thousands of screaming Bon Jovi fans packed Rockefeller Plaza in New York City during the Today show's "Celebration of Service" concert. He encouraged the thousands in the crowd – and millions watching the TV show – to celebrate the men and women of our armed services through volunteerism.

"We love them and appreciate what they go through for their nation and for their families that are thinking of them," said Bon Jovi to the national audience before kicking off the concert. And all along, the band has “toughed it out,” just like the Bon Jovi family. Bon Jovi points to good old fashioned teamwork as the difference that has kept his band rocking all these years. A “brotherhood,” he calls them.

“There comes a time in most successful bands' careers where they don't know why but they are about to implode and we had time to reflect on what was going wrong and all that was going wrong,” he told CNN’s Larry King, referring to all the pressures of stardom which almost broke up the band in the past, and his work to hold the band together. “If you have faith in my vision we can be here forever,” he told them. “And they did.”

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