Say Thanks Day
With a new event name, format and location, MMAF raised public awareness and drew nearly 1,000 people to Harriet Island in St. Paul for “Say Thanks Day” (formerly the Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Walk and Run). Say Thanks Day included a 5K run and 2 mile walk along the Mississippi River, a picnic in the park, and music by several artists, including national recording artist, Rockie Lynne. All walk and run participants received a “Thanks” t-shirt and ticket vouchers to redeem for a Minnesota Timberwolves game in November.
The warm, sunny morning began with a flyover of WWII fighter planes, in missing man formation. On stage, SGT Lucinda Barth and SPC Matthew Pollock were awarded MMAF grants. SGT Barth emotionally announced that she intended to give her grant money to the family of a fallen solider that she served with in Afghanistan. Rockie Lynne then provided a preview of his music with a performance of his touching song, “Home.”
Runners and walkers then made their way to the route along the Mississippi River. Patriot Guard members and their flags lined the beginning of the route. Seeing the many flags, homemade signs about loved ones, and signs pinned to shirts that told who they were walking in honor of, is always a heartwarming moment of pride. Following the walk and run, everyone enjoyed music, food and children enjoyed the large area of inflatable games in the park. Rockie Lynne capped off the afternoon with his music. Lynne is a veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division and a co-founder of the non-profit, Tribute to the Troops. His military experience is reflected in his songwriting. Say Thanks Day was a memorable event enjoyed by all.
10,000th Grant Presentation
In March of 2010, Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund achieved a major milestone. With the help of Governor Tim Pawlenty, Specialist Sasha Bell of Shoreview was awarded MMAF’s 10,000th grant at the State Capitol. We were honored to have in attendance Major General Rick Nash, Commander of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. In addition, SPC Bell’s squad leader SGT James Valenziano and her unit commander CPT Philip Jergenson were present. SPC Bell served with the Army National Guard Red Bulls 34th Military Police Command in Basra, Iraq and returned home in February — just in time to celebrate her one-year wedding anniversary.
LPS-NMFN Golf Tournament in Hudson, Wisconsin.
MMAF has been a beneficiary of this event for the past four years. This sold-out event brought great golf competition and special opportunity to recognize and thank Service Members. We appreciate organizers Justin Hall and Jeff Manderfeld. The event has raised over $15,000 for MMAF over the past four years.
The Patriot Ride
This 75-mile motorcycle ride, in its 4th year, benefits MMAF and the Minnesota Patriot Guard. The event, which has grown each year, had nearly 3,000 participants this year. It was a great experience to see such a large number of bikes roll out for the ride. Following the ride, the crowd enjoyed refreshments and live music in the park. MMAF would like to thank organizers Dennis Kirk and the Minnesota Patriot Guard for their support over the past 4 years.
Freedom Run, Minnesota Lake
The 4th annual classic car and motorcycle ride and silent auction was a great success. It was quite a sight to see 3 miles of bikes and cars rolling along country roads. A true grassroots effort from this southern Minnesota town of 700 people! MMAF commends organizers Jane McGregor, Tricia Brown, and Cathy Treanor.
Fagen WWII Air Show in Granite Falls
This event drew over 2,500 people to see 25 classic WWII planes performing and on display, including WWII Reenactors, bombing runs with live explosions and the Commemorative Air Force’s B-25 Bomber “Miss Mitchell.”
Fishermen’s Wharf Resort Military Personnel Tournament
This annual event, held on Lake Mille Lacs, included a fishing contest, door prizes and dinner. Thank you to tournament organizers for supporting Minnesota’s service members and their families.
Fighting for Those Who Fight For Us
In an attempt to give back to our nation’s heroes right here in Minnesota, four time World Champion kickboxer, Jon Lewis and Cellar Entertainment promoted a combative sporting event called “Fighting for Those Who Fight For Us” at the Cedar Street Armory in St. Paul. The action-packed night featured over 10 world-class full-contact kickboxing fights, stick fighting demonstrations and more. MMAF grants were given to Minnesota service members during intermissions. Thank you to Jon and Cellar Entertainment for their support.
Twin Cities River Rats Water Ski Show
The Twin Cities River Rats Ski Team performed a show to benefit MMAF on August 10. Despite ominous weather and a severe thunderstorm at the show’s end, over 500 people showed up in support of the River Rats and MMAF. We offer a special thank you to Grant Robinson, Don Philips, and all of the team members for making the event a success.
Cub Foods, 7UP Bottling and TCF Bank Partnership
For three weeks in August, Cub Foods, 7UP Bottling and TCF Bank partnered to raise money for MMAF. Cub Foods accepted donations for MMAF’s “Thanks” pins at every register and the TCF Bank branches within Cub maintained MMAF donation boxes. 7Up Bottling donated a portion of its proceeds to MMAF for every 7Up and Snapple product sold. This marks the fourth Cub/7UP/TCF Bank fundraising campaign, and we look forward to future partnerships with these three great companies.
Grant Presentation at the State Capitol
Every year on the anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, MMAF hosts a special ceremony at the State Capitol Rotunda to honor Minnesotans who have served our country since 9/11 and present each with a cash grant from MMAF. This year marked the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.
Eight Minnesota Service Members were awarded grants that morning:
- Staff Sergeant Michael Higgins. Served two tours of duty in Iraq with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
- Corporal Jake Hackbarth. Served in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps 3rd Kilo Company of the 1st Marine Division.
- 2nd Lieutenant Beth Miller. Served in Iraq with the 133rd Aerial Port Squadron of the MN Air National Guard.
- Captain Olubunmi Adekunle. Served in Iraq with the 847th Human Resources Company of the U.S. Army.
- Chief Petty Officer Thomas Mollen. Served in Afghanistan with the Navy Operational Support Center of the U.S. Navy.
- Specialist Samuel DeMars. Served in Iraq and was in Texas preparing for a second deployment to Iraq. His mother accepted the grant check on his behalf. SPC DeMars is with the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division of the 5-82nd Field Artillery.
- 1st Sergeant Bill Dullea. Served in Iraq with the 652nd Engineering Company of the U.S. Army.
- Sergeant William Dullea. Served in Afghanistan with the 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry. His father, 1SGT Bill Dullea, accepted the grant check on his behalf.
“When our country faced tragedy nearly nine years ago, thousands of Minnesotans answered the call of duty. Today, we honor a handful of the brave men and women and thank them for their service to our country,” said Roger Sit, Chair of MMAF.
Minnesota Timberwolves Operation Heroes Month
In conjunction with the Timberwolves’ Operation Minnesota Heroes program, MMAF presented grants to 16 Service Members during Timberwolves home games in November. Grant recipients were also presented with a signed basketball and a personalized jersey at center court. It is heartwarming to see and hear the standing ovation from the crowd for these heroes!
Grant recipients and their guests enjoyed the games from Target Center suites generously provided by Roger and Nancy McCabe, MMAF board members. MMAF is thankful for the support of the McCabes and to Chris Wright, President of the Timberwolves, and his staff for providing this special opportunity to raise public awareness of MMAF and allow basketball fans to recognize a few of our Minnesota heroes.
Grant recipients at Timberwolves games included:
CPL Madison Bienick
SPC Randy Blankenship
1LT Robert Bunn
SGT David Carlson
SGT Matthew Chambers
SPC Matt Colbeth
SGT Jeffrey Cowell
SSG Gerald Dotson
SGT Luke Erickson
SPC Christian Fashingbauer
SRA Kyle Graham
LCPL Joshua Gray
SPC Scott Hahn
SRA Michael Hemmingson
SGT Christopher Kolkman
CPL Justin Rhea