2019 Events

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Thank MN Troops Block Party 

MMAF was excited to host the Thank MN Troops Block Party on Saturday, September 21 at the Hamel VFW in Plymouth. The event was a welcome format change to the annual walk and run event, previously known as Say Thanks Day. Participants enjoyed an afternoon/evening full of activities including a 5K run and 1-mile walk, live music from the Emerson Avenue Band, food trucks and beverages, bounce houses, a parachute jump from the Patriot Parachute Team, an airshow of vintage T6 Texan aircraft and fireworks from the City of Medina.

Congratulations to the top 5K competitors in each age category:

17 and Under:  Catherine Sit and Michael Howard

18 – 35: Alice Reich and Jomel Mapa

36 – 50: Darcy Nicolai and Christopher Bahan

51 – 65: Joan Curtiss and Shaun Stevens

66 and Over:  Lanny Orning

Participants began arriving around 2:30 p.m. to hear announcements from emcee and MMAF Co-Founder, Gen. (Ret.) Denny Schulstad. A brief pre-race program took place at 3:15, including a moment of silence to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our country. The Emerson Avenue Band played The Star-Spangled Banner as members of the Hamel VFW Honor Guard presented our nation’s colors. Over 150 runners and walkers moved to the starting line to cover their respective 5 kilometer and 1 mile distances.

Runners and walkers returned to the VFW as the Emerson Avenue Band filled the area with their upbeat tunes, and everyone took a break to look to the skies at 4:30 p.m. as the Patriot Parachute Team descended from 10,000 feet above the crowd, fully equipped with smoke trails and a large American Flag. Gen. Schulstad returned to the state a few minutes later to introduce the former Navy Seals who had just parachuted into the event and to recognize the winners of the 5K run and the various door prizes awarded to participants. After prizes were awarded, MMAF Chair, Roger Sit, gave a brief recap on the current grant totals and the important milestones MMAF has reached in the past year. Mr. Sit then introduced Staff Sergeant Daniel Larson, of Minneapolis, who was awarded a grant check for injuries he sustained in Iraq. Mr. Sit noted that the grant check was the 500th that MMAF has awarded to a Purple Heart recipient since inception in 2005.

Emerson Avenue again took the stage after the awards as the crowd enjoyed food from the Smokin On Site and Mansetti’s food trucks, ice cream from Thelma’s Cookies and beverages from the Hamel VFW. Kids and those young at heart bounced and climbed on the inflatables as the music continued. At 5:30, the hum of piston engines could be heard as 4 vintage T6 aircraft buzzed low overheard. Emerson Avenue changed their tune to a patriotic theme as the airshow took place for the next 15 minutes, wowing all those in attendance. The crowd danced and enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere as the sun began to set, and as the band finished their music, the fireworks display from across the street at Medina’s Legion park capped off a great evening.

Thank you to event sponsors: Sit Investment Associates, Federated Insurance, TDS Inc., the Wealth Enhancement Group and Plymouth Beyond the Yellow Ribbon. MMAF also thanks the City of Medina and the Medina Police Department for working in conjunction on the Thank MN Troops Block Party and Medina Celebration Day. A special thank you to the Hamel VFW and Commander Jim Heimerl for the hard work from the VFW to make the Thank MN Troops Block party a reality.

View the 2019 Thank MN Troops Block Party Facebook photo gallery


Mystic Lake Change for the Better

Mystic Lake Casino Hotel selected MMAF to be the recipient of its’ Change for the Better program from January 15 – 31. The program allowed guests to donate part of their winnings to charity while helping to raise awareness for charitable organizations in the process. During the two week period, over $8,500 was raised for MMAF.


Minnesota Auto Dealers Association Oil Change Campaign

The Minnesota Auto Dealers Association selected MMAF to be the recipient of their annual oil change campaign in which $1 from every oil change performed at the 130 dealerships is donated to a charitable organization. During February, the MNADA dealers raised $30,699 for MMAF and a check was presented to MMAF Steering Committee member, Doug Arndt, during a ceremony at the Minnesota Auto Show on Tuesday, March 12.

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Freedom Run, Minnesota Lake

The 13th annual Freedom Run took place on Saturday, June 15 in Minnesota Lake, with nearly 200 bikes or classic cars participating in the 100-mile ride through scenic south-central Minnesota. The pre-ride program highlighted two veterans from the area and an update from MMAF Project Director, Joe Bennek on numbers of Minnesotans serving in the military and the number of grants MMAF has awarded, locally and statewide. While the weather could have been more cooperative throughout the ride, participants were excited to return to Minnesota Lake for live music, a hog roast, bean bag tournament, live auction and prizes. The Freedom Run has raised over $200,000 for MMAF over the last 13 years.

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The Patriot Ride

The Minnesota Patriot Guard, Dennis Kirk, and Tribute to the Troops presented the 2019 Patriot Ride, taking place on the north end of the Anoka County Airport and taking riders on a 70-mile journey through the north metro. Over 4,500 bikes participated in the ride and hundreds of others joined to witness the vintage aircraft flyover, Huey helicopter flyover and bike shows. The Patriot Ride program recognized families whose loved ones were lost in combat, the men and women who have served and are serving in the armed forces, and the police officers who help keep us safe at home. Since inception, the Patriot Ride has raised over $500,000 for MMAF.


Twin Cities River Rats Water Ski Show

The Twin Cities River Rats hosted their annual Military Appreciation show at their site on the Mississippi River on Tuesday, June 25. MMAF Project Director, Joe Bennek, addressed the crowd of over 1,500 spectators and then skied with the Rats, many of whom have served or are currently serving in the military. Funds were raised for MMAF during a pass-the-hat donation. Over the last ten years, the River Rats have raised over $20,000 for MMAF.


Minnesota Twins Armed Forces Appreciation Day

The Minnesota Twins and MMAF recognized four grant recipients during Military Day at Target Field on Sunday, July 7. MMAF Co-Founder, General Dennis Schulstad, awarded grant checks as part of pre-game festivities. Grant recipients included Navy Commander Todd Ladwig of Medina, Army Corporal Nathan Polansky of Dover, Army Sergeant Justin Harris of St. Paul, and Corporal Brian Theis, currently serving on active duty with the Marine Corps and home on leave for the weekend. Thank you to the Twins for their continued support of MMAF!

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Leech Lake Area Ride for Vets

The ninth annual Leech Lake Area Ride for Vets took place on Saturday, August 17 with nearly 100 motorcycles participating in the 140 mile ride through North-Central Minnesota. Riders gathered at the Walker Area American Legion Post 134 early on a beautiful morning and heard messages from MMAF’s Cheri Ford and Joe Bennek who were on hand to share updates about the organization and the number of grants MMAF has provided to recipients in the area. Riders were introduced to Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Kelly Nelson, who received a grant from MMAF nearly a decade ago, as he accepted a grant check on behalf of his son, Technical Sergeant Neil Nelson. Riders returned to the Legion in the late afternoon as winners of prize drawings were announced. The Leech Lake Ride for Veterans has raised over $50,000 for MMAF over the last nine years.

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Minnesota State Fair Military Appreciation Day

MMAF took part in the Minnesota State Fair’s ninth annual Military Day on Tuesday, August 27. A record crowd of 136,987 attended the fair on Military Day, many of whom took advantage of discounted tickets for service members and Veterans. MMAF gave away 1,000 reusable bags, branded with our “Thanks” logo and passed out information the upcoming Thank MN Troops Block Party. MMAF’s Project Director, Joe Bennek, was invited to address Fair-goers about the organization from the Carousel Park Stage during a mid-morning program. Thank you to the many service members who stopped by to learn more about MMAF or to share their appreciation for receiving a grant.

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