It’s difficult to believe that “The Big Thank You 2019” was one week ago today. If you were at Camp Pendleton last Sunday, December 8th, you know what a special event “The Big Thank You” is and how important an event it is.

If you were not able to join us last Sunday, it was truly a magical and joyous day. From Santa arriving in an red antique Mercedes courtesy of Bob Gunthrop, along with other antique automobiles courtesy of the Antique Automobile Club and a special guest appearance by ‘The Grinch’ courtesy of To The Stars, to the final offloading of the semi’s. All enjoyed a hot catered rotisserie chicken lunch by Kevin Fisher and Rotisserie Affair.

First of all, thank you to our family Sponsors. The generosity of our Bells of Freedom sponsors, donors, and volunteers this year was overwhelming: RAIN or shine. Providing these families a sense of community support and appreciation is what the Bells of Freedom wishes to do with this event every year. On December 8th, it was a warm and loving community that came around these enlisted men and women and their families to serve them. Our enlisted men, women and their families serve our country and protect Freedom; not only here at home in the United States of America, but wherever in the World they may be stationed.

Our extreme Gratitude goes out to the base liaisons, FRO’s and program mangers from Camp Pendleton and Balboa Hospital that helped us make this year’s event happen. They did so with great flair and precision and without hesitation. Thank you first and foremost to our Unit Event Center hostess FRO Andrea Tatayon of the CB11 Battalion and Dennis Flores of Headquarters and Support for securing, decorating and providing the volunteers we needed to make The Big Thank You event seamless. Also, thank you for securing entry for the motorcycles, semis and more than 80 private vehicles. Andrea and Dennis were more than generous with their time & help and we feel honored to have worked beside these two dedicated individuals preparing for this special day.

Our thanks also goes out to GySgt Michael Ritrovato of the 3D Tracks Battalion, Sgt Lillian Landwehr (and GySgt Donald Corey) of the Amphibious Assault School Battalion  and our liaison at the Wounded Warrior Program, Balboa, Lt. Marissa George for doing ‘double duty’ with all that they have going in their every day job on base or in hospital to help us daily for the three months to ready for this event with nominating families, procuring wish lists, and making sure that every enlisted attending aware of how to get to the venue, etc.

Thank you to the young AAS, CB 11, and Headquarters and Support Marines and Sailors for their assistance during food service throughout the day, they were a true blessing to us. Thank you to the Otis Foundation, the Baker Foundation, Denise Merlone, and Jana Greene for that providing the funds necessary to feed and give away happiness to our Marine and Navy families. Thank you to Lisa Clifford of To the Stars organization for arranging our visit from ‘the Grinch’ and of course, our always present UPS Drivers. Love you all!

We also want to thank our friends at The Tamarack Beach Resort, the Hilton Garden Inn, Carlsbad, the Hilton La Jolla, Torrey Pines, and the Embassy Suites, Temecula for their donation of one night stays for our Marine and Navy families. Also a shout out to Avonsole Winery, Temecula, Akash Winery, Temecula and Beach House Winery, Fallbrook for their donated wine tastings.

Thank you to our many donors like Laura and Duaine Hooker for providing one of our Disneyland and Legoland packages as well as Tanya Schaffer and family for donating one of the Legoland packages plus her beautiful home grown fruit. Thank you to Sharon Ticho and Carmel Valley Jazzercise for her donation of the bmx racing bike and razor; to Sue and Matts Olssen for one of our ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ packages; to the Loztof Group, of Pacific Sotheby’s International, La Jolla for another “Fly Me to the Moon” package; to Natalie Richardson for providing one of our $200.00 Target Shopping sprees; and to Jay Paulino of Casey Gerry for the Boys, Girls and Toddler Grab bag giveaways. Thank you to 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 Tackabery and American Assets Inc for the Carmel Country Plaza storage space and Mark McKinnon of KUSI and James Carmody of Rise Up for broadcasting and getting the word out. There are so many more just in the day-to-day like our volunteer shoppers and greeters. To conclude, this project can only come together with the help of those mentioned here. There many more caring individuals that helped to make this day special, so please know if you were not mentioned here, your donation of your funds and time is very appreciated; It does take a village.

We always wish we could reach out and include all of our deserving Marine/Navy families in this event, but time and space does not always permit that to happen. Once the smoke clears from my desk in the next few days, and as Sponsors step up, we will again be reaching out to our liaisons to begin providing a little Holiday Joy to those families that were waiting to be included on Sunday, but were not. Thanks to the many generous donations, Bells of Freedom will continue to ‘deliver’ the Holidays to our local Marine/Navy families through the months of December and January and all year long in the way of emergency help.

Take the time to view some of the many images of the day included here and please visit our Bells of Freedom FB page to post your remembrances, thoughts and comments on Sunday’s event. You can also check our website as we work begin to update our site with photos, videos and more of “The Big Thank You 2019”. If you were one of our volunteer greeters, please forward any photos you have with the family you shared the day with so we can forward those images to Sponsors.

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.

We feel honored to have worked beside and with all of you this year and we love and appreciate all of our Bells of Freedom Sponsors, Donors and Volunteers. Please take time this Holiday Season to tell those in your Life how much you Love and Appreciate them.

Peace and Blessings,

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 2019