What an evening!
Once again, the Horizon ballroom was filled to capacity with residents, visitors from surrounding communities, many volunteers, special guests, local dignitaries and entertainers, all to raise money for the non-profit organization USA Cares, the nonprofit group that provides financial and advocacy support to members of the U.S. armed forces, veterans and their families.
As I entered the ballroom, I spotted many of the people I had spoken to at last year’s event and decided I would walk around and ask what motivates them to work so hard and volunteer so many hours for this cause.
What I learned over the course of the evening is that the reasons, while stated differently, all come from the same place – the heart.
I spoke to Bob Carter of the Veterans Association planning committee, and asked, “What drives you to be so passionate about this event?”
“What drives me is the fact that 100 percent that is raised from the event goes to the veterans and their families,” Bob answered.
I chatted with Dennis Demshar, president of HoneyBaked Ham in Lady Lake, and asked if this fundraiser would become an annual event.
“Yes, it is going to be an annual event,” Dennis said with emotion. “This is my passion. I am committed to USA Cares. Every year we are going to continue and get stronger and stronger”.
“Are you going to provide the food again this year?” I asked.
“This year we are going to have our own honey-baked ham, turkey, baked potatoes, steamed green beans, we have a great dessert, salad and all the trimmings,” Dennis said.
The evening began with welcoming remarks by Carter followed by the presentation of colors, Pledge of Allegiance, singing of the national anthem, and a wonderful invocation.
During dinner, I spotted entertainer Norman Lee and asked, “What is it that motivates you?”
“I bleed red, white and blue. Anything I can ever do for our young men and women who serve this country, man I’m there”.
“I sing a song, and I preach the gospel, but these people are laying down their life on the line. They are willing to give everything to keep this country safe,” he continued.
Norman gazed around the room with admiration in his eyes and said, “Look at all these people. Every one of these people, every single one of these people donated their time, every one of these people paid for a ticket”.
“Hey, this is America; we all stick together, and when one is down, by God, we’re there to help,” he said with emotion.
Once dinner was finished, Richard Sobieray, USA Cares representative for Central Florida, spent a few moments welcoming visiting dignitaries, thanking all the residents and volunteers who contributed to the event’s success.
“We can’t thank the residents of Del Webb enough.” Richard said. “You guys have been absolutely wonderful to us and we appreciate it”.
Richard went on to say that it was an honor to work with USA Cares for what they do.
“The September figures, for example, for the state of Florida alone, they have granted over $522,000 to Florida clients. There are approximately 2500 clients here in Florida and (they have) saved 553 homes”.
Time arrived for Bryan Anderson, guest speaker and spokesman for USA Cares, to come to the stage. As he did, the audience came to its feet and gave him a heartfelt welcome.
Bryan survived an improvised explosive device attack, losing both lets and left hand while serving in the Iraq War.
“Thank you for the unbelievably warm welcome,” he said as he looked out into the audience. “First off, I just gotta say, thank you all for coming. I look at this right now, every year, as a tradition – something that I have to go to. You guys are my family now, and I just appreciate it,” Bryan said.
“You can be sure that there are soldiers in Florida that got to keep their houses, got to keep their lights on and, got to feed their kids at night,” Bryan said. “I just have to say, it is all because of you. It is touching to me”.
The rest of the evening was filled with Norman electrifying the audience with his boundless energy, beautiful voice, leading everyone in rousing renditions of patriotic songs and conducting an auction that both mesmerized and entertained everyone in the room.
Thanks to all these wonderful volunteers donating their time, talents and goods, the event raised $20,000.
Mary Chartier is a resident of Spruce Creek Golf and Country Club. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.