Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund hosted its annual fundraising dinner on Thursday, May 16th with retired General Joseph Votel acting as keynote speaker for the event. Joining General Votel were Governor Tim Walz, a 24 year Army National Guard veteran, and Dianna Beardsley, a Minnesota Gold Star Mother. The evening’s speakers joined nearly 500 guests to show support for Minnesota’s service members and their families at the Airport Hilton in Bloomington. Efforts from the evening raised more than $500,000.
The evening’s program was emceed by Tom Hauser of KSTP 5-Eyewitness News. Tom welcomed guests and provided a wonderful introduction to MMAF for those not already familiar with the organization. The Fort Snelling Memorial Chapel Honor Guard posted colors as choir members from VocalEssence, conducted by Philip Brunelle, performed several patriotic songs. Governor Tim Walz shared a message of appreciation for the sacrifices that Minnesota’s finest have made since 9/11, including a personal message to the Gold Star Mothers in the room. Gov. Walz reiterated that MMAF is important and that continues support of the military is vital to the state.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Daniel Pulju gave an invocation and recognized those who have given their lives in service to our country. MMAF Chair Roger Sit updated guests on the progress the organization has made since its inception in 2005, announcing that the organization has distributed grants totaling more than $11.4 million dollars to over 17,400 Minnesota service members. Mr. Sit reminded attendees that Minnesotans continue to be deployed in large numbers and that the mission of MMAF will continue until all of Minnesota’s service members have returned home.
After dinner, guests were introduced to Dianna Beardsley, mother of Sergeant William (BJ) Beardsley, who was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq in 2007. Dianna shared stories about her son and how her family has made positives out of the hardest of hardships in their life. She also shared a story about meeting President George W. Bush in the Oval Office and how powerful the moment became for her family, and for the the President. Dianna’s message of perseverance is one that will be remembered by everyone in attendance.
Tom Hauser then returned to the stage and introduced retired Army General Joseph Votel, who retired as the Commander of U.S. Central Command just weeks before the event. General Votel expressed his gratitude to those who continue to support those who serve, while subsequently expressing sorrow and gratitude to Dianna and Jill Stephenson, another Gold Star Mother, for their sacrifices. General Votel enlightened the crowd by giving them reasons why it is important the U.S. maintains its presence in the Middle East and other volatile regions throughout the world.
Roger Sit presented both speakers with plaques from MMAF in appreciation of their service and sacrifices. The evening concluded with a performance by VocalEssence of “God Bless America” as the colors were retired.
We appreciate those individuals and corporations who gave so generously to this central MMAF fundraiser. One hundred percent of funds raised at the dinner will go directly to Minnesota troops and their families thanks to underwriting by the main event sponsor, Sit Investment Associates.