Say Thanks Day
Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund held its Annual Say Thanks Day event on Saturday, September 7 at the Boy Scout Base Camp at Fort Snelling. The 9th annual event included a 10K run, 5K run and two-mile walk. Two new aspects were introduced this year as well, as we welcomed the addition of a Kid’s Carnival and the Marine RECON Challenge which asked competitors to run 3 miles in under 18 minutes.
Participants began arriving before 8:00 a.m. on a beautiful morning, with temperatures in the upper 70s and plenty of sunshine. As participants arrived and checked in, they were greeted by music from the Emerson Avenue Band and host of volunteers from Target, the David Martin Agency, TDS Inc. and the Harding High School Junior ROTC program. The event emcee, Tom Hauser of KSTP 5 – Eyewitness News, kicked off pre-race festivities at 8:45, welcoming participants and thanking them for supporting Minnesota’s service members. Following a moment of silence to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our country, a military band played 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. More than 400 runners moved to the Starting line at 9:00 to participate in the 10K run, 5K run and Marine RECON Challenge. A few minutes later, more than 250 walkers made their way to the starting line and began to walk the two-mile course, which was lined with American Flags.
While walkers and runners enjoyed the beautiful weather and scenic views, music from the Emerson Avenue Band filled the ears of those remaining at Base Camp. The rousing music provided a festive backdrop as the Kid’s Carnival games, including inflatables, giant Jenga and giant cup stacking began to fill up with kids of all ages. The climbing walls were filled with thrill-seekers looking to challenge themselves in a vertical endeavor.
When the runners and walkers had returned to Base Camp, Tom Hauser opened the post-race program with a brief history on MMAF and the reasons for Say Thanks Day, while MMAF Grant Recipient, Doug Lodermeier, presented MMAF with a check from the St. Louis Park American Legion. MMAF Chair Roger Sit gave a brief recap on the current grant totals and the important milestones MMAF has reached in the past year. Tom and Roger then invited MMAF co-founders Michael Gorman and Skip Krawczyk to the stage to award a grant check to a Minnesota service member. The group took pleasure in introducing Sergeant Trevor Friesen, of Plymouth and presenting him with a grant check to thank him for his service in Afghanistan. As the program continued, Tom announced the names of those who had won the door prize drawings, as well as both the men’s and women’s 5K and 10K run winners and the names of the two winners of the Marine RECON Challenge.
Following the program, all participants were invited inside of Base Camp to watch the Kid’s Carnival magic show from Alan Johnson. As each child left the magic show, they were presented with a tree sapling to be planted in honor of a service member. A special thank you goes to Andrew Sit for organizing the Kid’s Carnival and the Boy Scouts of Troop 3124 for their assistance.
Thank you to each of our event sponsors: Sit Investment Associates, Federated Insurance, TCF Bank, The Wealth Enhancement Group, Nelson, Tietz and Hoye Inc, TDS Inc, Cub Foods and 7Up. A special “Thanks” to the Northern Star Council Boy Scouts of America and Base Camp for allowing Say Thanks Day to take place at their beautiful location, and to the Forest Lake VFW for serving food at the event.
The Patriot Ride
The 8th Annual Patriot Ride took place on June 15 in Ham Lake MN. Over 2,000 riders participated in the event in which Brian Zepp, of the 92 KQRS morning show, kicked off a pre-race program that included messages from veterans and their families. The very moving pre-race program concluded just before noon and the riders left for the Cambridge armory. The riders braved a steady rain to return to Lions Park for the post race ceremony. General Rick Nash gave a captivating speech about the continued need to support veterans and military based causes, which was reiterated by first hand accounts of how a family deals with loved ones on deployment. The many Gold Star families in attendance were given a chance to honor their loved ones with a ceremonial release of balloons. The conclusion of the program included the raffle of a 2013 Harley-Davidson Road Glide motorcycle. Thank you to all of the many organizers of the 2013 Patriot Ride for another great event! Click Here to learn more about the ride!
Freedom Run, Minnesota Lake
The 7th Annual Freedom Run in Minnesota Lake, MN took place on June 23. The event featured over a two hundred motorcycles and along with classic cars who braved rain to support Minnesota’s service members and their families. The event was kicked off by General Rick Nash, who thanked everyone in attendance for their continued support of Minnesota’s service members with their participation in the event. Several service members were on hand to tell their stories and help solidify why participants were willing to ride. Special Thanks to Jane McGregor, Danny Woitas and Tricia Woitas for all of the hard work they put in to make the 7th Annual Run another great success!
Minnesota Twins Armed Forces Appreciation Day
The Minnesota Twins and MMAF honored 4 Purple Heart recipients on Target Field prior to the Sunday, June 30 game against the Kansas City Royals. MMAF Co-Founder, General Dennis Schulstad, presented $2,000 grant checks to CPL Gabriel Wakonado, SPC Andrew Ellerbrock and SPC Jason Probst. A check for $8,000 was presented to CPL Daryl Baumann. While the grant checks were being presented on the field,, Gold Star Families were settling into 16 suites that had been donated for the day’s game. The Twins also asked Champions Club ticket holders to donate their tickets to a service member for the game. Over 50 Purple Heart grant recipients from the Vietnam era and their families, totaling over 150 people, received tickets as part of this offer. The military personnel and their families were treated to the best the Twins could offer on and off the field.
Minnesota Vikings vs Houston Texans
The Minnesota Vikings made 1000 tickets available to MMAF grant recipients for their preseason game against the Houston Texans on Friday, August 9. Thank you to the Vikings for this great offer and for making it possible for service members and their families to attend the game.
Twin Cities River Rats Water Ski Show
On Tuesday, August 13 the Twin Cities River Rats Water Ski Show Team held their 5th Annual benefit show for MMAF on the banks of the Mississippi River. The KARE11 morning show interviewed members of the ski team early on the morning of the 13th, adding additional publicity to the evening’s event. The thousands of people in attendance were wowed as the River Rats performed to the best of their abilities, demonstrating different disciplines of skiing including bare-foot, short skis, wakeboarding and the sit-down hydrofoil. The Rats’ jump team hit the ski jump for front and back flips, along with other aerial stunts as tandem skiers raced up and down the river. The Rats then showed their expertise in doubles. Straps and concluded the evening with a 20 foot high person pyramid to the amazement of the crowd. A special “Thanks” goes out to the River Rats, especially Amy Nordquist and Don Phillips for organizing the event and continuing the great support for Minnesota’s military personnel and their families.
Leech Lake Area Ride For Vets
On a rainy and windy August morning in northern Minnesota, 64 motorcycle riders participated in a ride that demonstrated their support to Minnesota’s service members and their families. The Legion Riders secured nearly 60 sponsors who donated door prizes or their services and helped the Legion Riders raise $5,000 for MMAF. Before the ride started, MMAF Steering Committee member Cheri Ford awarded four cash grants to service members or to parents of a deployed service member. MMAF would like to recognize Gary Kennedy, President of Legion Riders, Mark Whade, Road Captain, and all the Legion Riders for all their hard work in organizing this new event.
Minnesota State Fair Military Appreciation Day
On Tuesday, August 27 the Minnesota State Fair held its annual Military Appreciation Day. As part of the day, Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund and over 40 other groups benefitting Minnesota veterans set up within the fairgrounds. Fairgoers were able to pick up information on how they could assist MMAF and the other organizations with donations, volunteer opportunities and general support. Those in attendance who had served since 2001 were able to learn about applying for a grant from MMAF and many grant recipients stopped by to show their appreciation. Fairgoers picked up thousands of “Thanks” pins and signed postcards to send to deployed Minnesota service members.
Minnesota Timberwolves Operation Heroes Month
In conjunction with the Minnesota Timberwolves Operation Minnesota Heroes program, MMAF presented grants to 16 military service members during every Timberwolves home games in November. Grant recipients were also presented jerseys at center court and enjoyed the game from Target Center suites generously provided by MMAF Board Members Roger and Nancy McCabe. Special thanks to the McCabes for their support and to Timberwolves President Chris Wright and his staff for providing this special opportunity to raise public awareness for MMAF and recognition for some of our Minnesota heroes. The grant recipients included the following veterans:
- Sergeant Matthew Birr
- Sergeant Shanae Fortson
- Master-at-Arms Matthew Foy
- Specialist Kristopher Francisco
- Sergeant Samuel Getaweh
- Sergeant Erik Halvorsen
- Sergeant Robert Hutton
- Specialist Josh Lane
- Sergeant Christina Larson
- Specialist Cody Lindberg
- Sergeant Tim Lisk
- Specialist Johnathan Nyquist
- Specialist Scott Patrick
- Private Juren Raske
- Captain Brandon Schrader
- Specialist Christopher Vasquez