Sunday, December 3rd, 2017 was a Day to Remember…from Santa arriving in a red antique Mercedes (courtesy of Bob Gunthrop and the Antique Automobile Club of America) to the final offloading of the semis on Camp Pendleton. The generosity of our Bells of Freedom, Sponsors, Donors, and Volunteers this year was overwhelming. Providing these families, a sense of community support and love is what the Bells of Freedom wishes to do with this event every year this year it was a warm and loving community that came around these enlisted and their families with their financial and emotional support. AMAZING!

Upon arriving at Camp Pendleton, our caravan of Sponsor families and Bells of Freedom Volunteers were greeted by Marine and Navy families lining the street to our destination at the Assault Amphibian School Battalion. The mere sight of the excited families brought tears to the eyes of our Sponsor families.

Once inside our designated event space, Marine and Navy families were connected to their local Sponsors or to a Bells of Freedom greeter (for sponsors out of town or state) to spend a few hours eating, talking and taking advantage of the cool give away packages.

Our extreme Gratitude goes out to the base liaisons that help us make these events happen and they do so with great flair and precision and without hesitation. Thank you to FRO Toni Ramirez, GySgt Michael Ritrovato, SSgt James Bruce and Dennis Flores for doing ‘double duty’ with all that they have going on every day job on base to help us daily for three months to ready for this event with nominating families, looking for and providing a venue, securing entry for our more than 85 autos (yes, we counted) and arranging banquet tables and event room with a real Holiday party feel. Thank you to the young Assault Amphibian School Battalion (AAS) Marines for their assistance throughout the day…they were a true blessing to us as they helped serve the catered lunch, carried family gifts to vehicles and of course the cleanup at the end of the day.

Thank you to the Otis Foundation, Jenny Craig and the Baker Foundation that provides funds to feed and give away happiness to our Marine and Navy families. And of course, we couldn’t do what we do without our loyal friends and partners of the United Parcel Service. A special thanks goes to Jenny Craig who provided diapers for all the attending Marine and Navy families with infants and toddlers attending the event.

One of the most awaited part of the day is when Louis stands up and says, let’s give away some special gifts! Just under $10,000.00 in hotel stays, shopping sprees, winery visits, theater vouchers, Legoland and Disneyland tickets and toys were given to the attending Marine and Navy enlisted by a blind drawing. We couldn’t do this without the generous donations of businesses like the Tamarack Beach Resort, The Grand Pacific Palisades Hotel, the Cape Rey at Carlsbad Beach, the Hilton Garden Inn on Carlsbad Beach, and the Embassy Suites in Temecula for their donation of one-night stays for our Marine and Navy families. A big Thank You goes out to Jamba Juice also was along for the ride complete with smoothie coupons; Rancho Santa Fe resident, Tanya Shaffer for her beautiful home grown fruit; Coffee Bean Leaf and Tea – Carmel Valley for the donation of hot chocolate and coffee for our Sponsors and volunteers at the loading area; Mark Tackleberry and American Assets Inc for the Carmel Country Plaza storage space; and of course, United Parcel Service and it’s Drivers headed by Art Lum and the two semi’s donated for transport of family gifts from loading zone to Camp Pendleton. There are so many more, just in the day to day like our volunteer shoppers and greeters. This project can only come together without the help of those mentioned here, and those that may not have mentioned.

Of course, the ‘Pièce de résistance’ to the day? The backing up of the two UPS semi’s, the opening of the big back door and Sponsor families and their adopted Marine and Navy families off load family gifts provided by their Sponsor.

Visit our Bells of Freedom FB page at to post your remembrances, thoughts and comments about the event. Please spread the word about Dance Hearts/Bells of Freedom. Dance Hearts/Bells of Freedom has no paid Principles, Directors, Staff or Volunteers. 100% of donated funds earmarked for emergency care or the Big Thank You goes directly to the families we serve. 98% of donated funds earmarked for general fund goes to the military families we serve.

Learn more about The Big Thank You here. Have something to share about the day, the overall campaign or otherwise?  Please leave a comment below.

Photo Highlights: The Big Thank You 2017