It was a “One in a Million” year. Unilever sponsored a NASCAR Xfinity Race Car with JR Motorsports and the Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon image raced at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 28. Well, our driver, Justin Allgaier, made it to our Gala, even if only briefly for a few hours, since he had to be in Miami, FL, the next morning for playoff meetings and qualifications for that weekend’s playoff races! Thank you Unilever and the Unilever Military Sales Team, we will be forever grateful! Here is the video from the Gala:
We depend on sponsorships for our main revenue for the Gala. Thanks to our Sponsors and Patrons this year, pictured here:
The Gala is on Thursday night, but it starts with some Wounded/Recovering Veterans and other visitors coming in Wednesday night. Some helped us set up for the Gala at The Royal Manor Thursday morning. Then the big evening starts.
This year, our Special Guest was Justin Allgaier, race car driver for JR Motorsports and our Unilever/Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon Car #7. Justin is a huge fan of our military. His grandfather fought at Normandy in WWII. Due to a NASCAR Playoff meeting mandate, Justin couldn’t stay for the whole program but he attended during the cocktail hour so folks could get pics and autographs with him.
Meanwhile, Unilever brought our friend Cecil Culbreth, along with the trailer and simulator race car to the venue!
With Justin in the house, people were registering, having cocktails and enjoying taking pictures and getting autographs from Justin, who finally spoke a few words in the ballroom before leaving.
Then came the Pledge of Allegiance with some of our Wounded Veterans participating.
And then Lauren D’Imperio sang an amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Mary-Edna Krutchkoff, R.N., AaSP VP Wounded Care, describes the meaning of the “Missing Table” and asks folks to life their glass but do not drink, to pay tribute to our Fallen – both those who died of wounds in battle, and those who lost their battle to their emotional demons acquired from wartime – none of whom could join us that night.
Meanwhile, folks are looking at the Silent Auction items, enjoying the beginning of dinner and socializing and soaking up the great camaraderie energy. Gala Chairman Karl Nelson provides information on dinner, the Silent Auction, as well as introducing our Veterans, AaSP Trustees, and Athletes who were kind enough to join us for the evening.
Presentation to our Esteemed Honoree of the Year, Subaru of America.
For the last 9 years, AaSP has been a local charity of Liberty Subaru of Emerson, NJ. As such, we have received over $250,000 from Subaru of America’s Share the Love event and contributions from Liberty Subaru. Additionally, Subaru of America has supplied AaSP with $$Thousands$$ worth of pullovers, coffee cups and flashlights that we have been sending to our Troops overseas! When American Troops left Afghanistan, Subaru of America provided evacuated Afghans from Kabul (who were redirected to a base in NJ) with over 9,000 pullovers at our request. Subaru Veterans attended this year’s Gala. Brandon Spewak, from Subaru Headquarters, was presented with a signed 50-Star Field from Americans serving in Syria. THANK YOU Subaru of America!
Our Four-Star Sponsor – BioCompression – was also presented with a 50-Star Field signed by Americans serving in Syria.
BioCompression owner, Bob Freidenrich, had some kind and moving words about the company’s support of Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon and our Military and Wounded/Recovering Veterans.
The Spartan Pledge is always one of the most solemn moments of the Gala.
This year, Gold Star wife, Erin Simpson, presided over the short but powerful Pledge by those promising never to take their own life without talking first to a battle buddy. One of the Veterans held a cross made from World Trade Center steel as a crowd of participants touched each other and connected to the Cross as they repeated the Pledge. Nearly 20 Veterans take their own lives every day in America.
Andrew Espinoza sang a stunning rendition of “God Bless the USA” got a standing ovation.
With the Silent Auction closing (folks were bidding on their phones all night), the annual Live Auction is always a hit with the crowd.
Emcee’d by our Gala Chairman, Karl Nelson, auctioneer extraordinaire, we had five fun and exciting items, including a week by the beach in South Jersey; the fire suit worn and signed by our Special Guest, Justin Allgaier, driver of the Unilever/Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon Car #7; and a 50-Star Field, signed by members of a Naval Special Operations Force. But probably the two most dramatic items were a rare, signed copy of the book, “Marine,” the story of General Chesty Puller (one of our Wounded/Recovering Veterans came with his Service Dog, Chesty Puller!) – and the Rear Quarter Panel (Fender) from Car #7 that hit the wall near the end of the exciting race and denied Justin the win in Charlotte in May. It was signed by both Justin Allgaier and Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt, Jr., head of JR Motorsports.
The winner of Marine book donated the book to our Wounded/Recovering Veteran Val, and it was presented by Alan and Mary-Edna K.!
The last item up for bid was the Rear Quarter Panel that hit the wall during the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway!
It was the most spirited bidding of the night and the winning bid came from a family in the automobile business!
Donations completed, and Patriotism and Pageantry in the rear view mirror, it was time to just dance, finish dessert and enjoy the end of the evening!
Salute Committee – Karl and Inga Nelson, Alan and Mary-Edna Krutchkoff and Ashlee Luther
Ashlee’s Auction Team
Justin Allgaier, Mike Campbell, Jenny Severance and Cecil Culbreth
The Royal Manor staff
Unilever Military Sales for making the race happen
Photographer – Angela D’Imperio
Video – Mike Madore
DJ – James Barrett
and EVERYONE who helped make this event so special!!!
See you next year!