Say Thanks Day
MMAF invited military families and the public to its 8th annual “Say Thanks Day” event on Saturday, June 9, 2012. The event was held at a new and now permanent location: the Boy Scout Base Camp at Fort Snelling. The event generated a new category of runners by introducing a 10K run to accompany the 5K run and two-mile walk.
Registration began at 8 a.m. on a beautiful sunny morning, with temperatures in the upper 70s. The participants arrived to see inflatable games ready to be bounced upon, a climbing wall ready to be challenged, and a display of military vehicles.
A poignant moment of silence was held to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our country, followed by a moving renditions of Taps and the Star Spangled Banner. A flyover of vintage T-6 Texan aircrafts in missing man formation signified that the race was about to start and provided an exciting moment for the crowd. Over 400 runners participated in the 5K and 10K runs, and over 600 walkers walked a 2-mile course that was lined with American Flags.
While walkers and runners enjoyed the ideal weather and scenic views, music from the Emerson Avenue Band energized those remaining at Base Camp. The rousing music provided a festive backdrop as the inflatable games became populated with kids and the climbing walls teemed with thrill-seekers. The Forest Lake VFW served food to the returning runners and walkers.
Following the walk and runs, MMAF Co-Founder General Dennis Schulstad and MMAF Chair Roger Sit discussed the history of MMAF and updated the crowd on grant totals and other milestones. MMAF Co-Founders Michael Gorman and Skip Krawczyk awarded grants to two Minnesota service members:
Sergeant Erin Cochran, Forest Lake
Lance Corporal Jason Tuuri, White Bear Lake
Thank you to Say Thanks Day event sponsors: Sit Investment Associates, Federated Insurance, TCF Bank, The Wealth Enhancement Group, Nelson, Tietz and Hoye Inc, TDS Inc, Cub Foods and 7Up. Thanks to everyone who participated in the 8th annual Say Thanks Day. We appreciate your support of MMAF.
Minnesota Timberwolves Operation Heroes Month
In conjunction with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Operation Minnesota Heroes program, MMAF presented grants to 17 military service members during Timberwolves home games in February. Grant recipients were also presented at center court with signed basketballs and personalized jerseys. This show of appreciation, combined with the crowd’s boisterous cheering and standing ovation, reflected Minnesota’s pride in our service members.
Grant recipients and their guests enjoyed the games from Target Center suites generously provided by MMAF Board Members Roger and Nancy McCabe. Special thanks to the McCabes for their support and to Chris Wright, President of the Timberwolves, and his staff for providing this special opportunity to raise public awareness for MMAF. Not only did the event recognize some of our Minnesota heroes, but it raised awareness among basketball fans and allowed them to add their appreciation. Grant recipients at Timberwolves games last February included:
CPL Todd Austin
SSGT Andrea Carrothers
SSGT Brandon Ellefson
TSGT Joseph Girtz
SRA Caleb Harstad
SGT Marc Kane
SGT Kao Lee
SSGT Matt Lentz
SGT Brian Nolde
SSG Justim Omlie
SPC Joshua Ramos
SGT Kimberly Ramos
CPL Andrew Sorenson
CPL Curtis Thompson
SGT Dawn Van Hevelin
SPC Michael Wendt
SPC Amanda Williams
The Patriot Ride
More than 2,000 motorcycle riders participated in the 7th annual Patriot Ride. Brian Zepp of the 92 KQRS morning show kicked off a pre-race program that included messages from veterans and their families and a Blackhawk helicopter flyover. Braving a steady rain, the riders returned still smiling to Lions Park for a post-ride ceremony. The many Gold Star families in attendance honored their loved ones with a ceremonial release of balloons. This year’s ride raised over $43,000 for MMAF, for a total of over $270,000 raised for MMAF since the first ride in 2006.
Ray Fagen Memorial Air Show, Granite Falls
The World War II-era air show featured 25 to 30 of the most storied WWII planes in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces. Thousands of people joined pilots Ron Fagen, Evan Fagen and Rob Ator as they simulated dog-fights in their P-51 Mustang, P-40 Warhawk and P-38 Lightning. The air show included restored WWII ground vehicles and sound effects that wowed the audience. The Aeroshell Acrobatic Team and Valiant Echos Airshows performed and the Liberty Jump Team parachuted from a C-47 with and American Flag and a trail of red, white and blue smoke. Following the air show, fans enjoyed live music from Vietnam Veteran Aaron Tippin and his band at a 1940s-style hangar dance. Special thanks to the Fagen family for their incredible efforts to raise a total of $15,000 for MMAF over three years.
Freedom Run, Minnesota Lake
The 6th annual Freedom Run featured more than one hundred motorcycles and classic cars, whose drivers braved rain and rode over 100 miles in support of Minnesota’s service members and their families. MMAF Steering Committee member David Jensen and SFC Larry Eustice provided pre-race messages to participants, echoing the need for continued support of our military. Several service members were on hand to share their stories and help solidify why participants were willing to ride. Riders returned to Minnesota Lake for live music, food and a silent auction. The day’s events raised over $17,000 dollars for MMAF, for a total of over $75,000 since 2007. Special thanks to Jane McGregor, Danny and Tricia Woitas and Shellie Wiederholt-Berndt for the hard work and countless hours they dedicated to make the 6th annual Freedom Run another great success.
Minnesota Twins Armed Forces Appreciation Day
MMAF partnered with the Minnesota Twins to honor our Minnesota service members during the July 1st game against the Kansas City Royals. To make the event possible, Champions Club ticket holders and suite owners donated their tickets. Thanks to their generosity, family members of Minnesotans killed in action filled 16 suites, and more than 50 MMAF Purple Heart grant recipients and their families sat in premier seats for the game.
Prior to the first pitch, five Purple Heart recipients were honored on Target Field with $2,000 to $8,000 grant checks presented by MMAF Steering Committee members Roger and Nancy McCabe:
CPL Andrew Dopp, Grand Rapids
Private Zachary Fife, St. Paul
SGT Derek Lenz, Minneapolis
SSG Tim Nelson, Lino Lakes
SSG Wesely Cureton, Minneapolis
MMAF Steering Committee member David Jensen and grant recipient Tim Nelson were interviewed by the Twins Radio Network about MMAF, and Minnesota Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire provided voice talent in MMAF radio public service announcements. The public service announcements were used in the ballpark and broadcast statewide. MMAF is grateful for the support of the Minnesota Twins in raising awareness and honoring our service members.
Twin Cities River Rats Water Ski Show
The Twin Cities River Rats Water Ski Show Team held their 4th annual benefit show for MMAF on the banks of the Mississippi River. A light rain shower was no distraction for the hundreds in attendance that were continually wowed by the River Rats’ performance. The crowd was treated to a variety of skiing techniques, including barefoot, short skis, wakeboarding and sit-down hydrofoil. The evening concluded with a 20-foot-high human pyramid to the crowd’s amazement. A special thanks to the River Rats, especially Amy Nordquist and Don Phillips for organizing the event and continuing their great support for Minnesota’s military personnel and their families.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Buffalo Bills
The Minnesota Vikings donated more than 1,000 tickets to MMAF grant recipients and their families for the game against the Buffalo Bills. A special thanks to the Vikings as they continue to demonstrate their support for Minnesota’s service members and their families.
Minnesota Vikings Military Appreciation Day
Veterans Day was memorable for many, as MMAF grant recipients were invited to join the Minnesota Vikings on the field in the match-up against the Detroit Lions on November 11. Prior to kick-off, MMAF awarded grants at the 50-yard line to two service members:
SGT Derek Goodridge, Minneapolis
SPC Steven Solie, Oakdale
U.S. Service members filled 200 temporary seats on the sidelines and Vikings players’ very own messages of thanks were displayed on the video board throughout the game. The half-time show featured the unfurling of a giant American flag and a surprise reunion of a recently returned soldier with his family. MMAF was proud to be part of the Vikings’ tribute to Minnesota service members.
Let’s Ride, Minnesota – Olivia/Bird Island
Let’s Ride, Minnesota was a motorcycle rally to honor Minnesota veterans and their families. 280 motorcycles and over 430 riders took to the roads starting in Olivia, MN, for three separate 120-mile routes, each ending at the Renville County Fairgrounds in Bird Island. During a post ride program that included a silent auction and live music, over $5,000 was raised for MMAF in this first time event. Thanks to Bert Wasierski, the Renville County Veterans Association and the Tim Orth Foundation.
Leech Lake Area Ride For Vets
The second annual Leech Lake Ride for Vets was held on a cold and rainy August morning in northern Minnesota. Despite the weather, 64 motorcycle riders participated in the 100-mile ride from Walker American Legion Post to demonstrate their support for our Minnesota service members. The Legion Riders had secured nearly 60 sponsors to donate door prizes or their services and nearly $5,000 was raised for MMAF. Prior to the ride, MMAF awarded four cash grants to service members or to parents of a deployed service member from the Leech Lake/Walker area. MMAF recognizes Gary Kennedy, President of Legion Riders, Mark Whade, Road Captain, and all the Legion Riders for their hard work in organizing this new event.
Minnesota State Fair Military Appreciation Day
On Tuesday, August 28 the Minnesota State Fair held its second-annual Military Appreciation Day. As part of the day, MMAF and more than 40 other organizations benefitting Minnesota veterans were at the fairgrounds. Fairgoers learned how they could support MMAF and other military organizations. Military personnel who had served in a combat zone since 2001 were able to learn about applying for a grant from MMAF. It was gratifying to see many grant recipients stop by the MMAF booth to shake hands and show their appreciation for the Fund. Thousands of “Thanks” pins were given away, helping spread the message that we are grateful for the sacrifices of Minnesota veterans and their families.
Cub Foods and 7UP/Snapple Promotions
During a two week campaign during the month of November, Cub Foods and 7-Up/Snapple partnered for an in-store promotion, with portions of proceeds from 7-Up and Snapple product sales benefitting MMAF. This promotion was advertised in Cub Foods coupons books, which are distributed to thousands of people throughout the state. Throughout past five years, 7-Up/Snapple and Cub Foods have raised over $157,000 dollars for MMAF. We appreciate the continued commitment to our Minnesota service members and give thanks to Dave Johnson with 7-Up/Snapple and Tammie Lukkonen with Cub Foods for their efforts.