The Daily Sun, The Villages, Florida
Where do I even begin to share with you the recent second annual charity USA Cares HoneyBaked Ham Spaghetti Dinner hosted by the Spruce Creek Veterans Association?
Do I start by using words like wonderful, inspiring, fun or electric? Yes, all those and more.
The night of the event I spoke to USA Cares representative of Central Florida Richard Sobieray.
Richard explained that USA Cares is a national charity that provides assistance to military personnel and their families.
“Not only the wounded,” he emphasized.
“While they are over there fighting they are losing their homes, cars here at home. We try to find them jobs, get the guys retrained,” said Richard.
Richard went on to explain that after their first event in 2011, HoneyBaked Ham in Lady Lake president Dennis Demshar said, “Let’s have another spaghetti dinner”.
This idea started a chain of events that led to this wonderful evening.
Dennis called pastor and entertainer Norman Lee, who called HOA director member Bob Carter, who called Veterans Association Commander Manny Carreras.
“The rest of it is a miracle. The community just stepped in,” said Richard.
Bob then went to the Rhythm & Notes and Fountain Singers clubs and asked if they would give up their scheduled time in the ballroom; both graciously agreed to give up their space for the event.
Once a date and time had been secured, the planning committee kicked into high gear, securing at no cost all the food, advertising, prizes, entertainment, ensuring that all proceeds would go directly to USA Cares.
The evening for the evening arrived, and from the moment featured speaker Bryan Anderson entered the ballroom, he was surrounded by admirers.
Bryan is a survivor of an IED attack, losing both legs and his left hand while serving in the Iraq war.
I spoke briefly to Bryan about his involvement in the event.
“I am a spokesman for USA Cares,” he explained. “After I came back I got some really good support. I wanted to give back and help other veterans. Most of the help out there is for military vets. I wanted to be able to help anybody no matter whether they were military or not”.
“We (USA Cares) figure out how to help,” Bryan went on to say. “I like that. We help with mortgages, foreclosures, car payments, etc. If we can’t help, we point them in the right direction of where they can get help”.
Bryan is truly a wonderful example of someone turning adversity into success.
Since returning home he has become a national spokesman for Quantum Rehab, a division of Pride Mobility Corp and USA Cares; an actor; an author; and now hosts his own TV show, which is up for an Emmy this year.
One of the more poignant comments made by Bryan during the evening about our returning soldiers was, “All soldiers want to be is independent”.
There were so many people that made this evening successful that I cannot mention them all, but I did want recognize a group of fine young men from Boy Scout Troop #244 Ethan Macomber, Jonathan Gaylor and Ben DuShane for their contribution to this effort.
After eating a great dinner, listening to many welcoming and thank-you speeches from members of the planning committee and others, entertainer Norman Lee took over, and from that point on the air in the ballroom was electric.
Norman introduced our own Lucy Noe and Ben Simmons, who shared the stage singing several uplifting love songs.
Then Norman took the microphone and said, “If you still believe that this is the greatest country on Earth, I want you to stand up and make some noise”.
The ballroom erupted into wild applause and cheers and everyone singing patriotic songs – “America the Beautiful”, “God Bless America”, “God Bless the USA” and “Coming to America”.
Where do you go from there?
You go to an evening with a dance floor that was always full, everyone singing along, and eventually watching on the edge of your seat as auction item — a dinner for four prepared by Chef Roy in the winner’s home — exceeded all expectations.
Norman started the bidding at $1, and with humor; coaxing, encouraging, and challenging bidders he closed the bidding at $500 with the prize going to Cathy Melone.
“My goal was to make this event a totally positive experience for everyone,” Bob said.
I can report that Bob and everyone associated with this great event far exceeded expectations.
In the end, this wonderful event raised over $14,000.
Mary Chartier is a resident of Spruce Creek Golf and Country Club. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.