The crowd was electric and in a celebratory mood on June 16 when more than 500 volunteers descended on the California National Guard Armory in Van Nuys to assemble the 800,000th Operation Gratitude Care Package.
The Milestone package, which will be delivered to a service member currently deployed in harm’s way, includes the keys to a custom built “American Chopper” donated by Torque Sports and Performance, Inc. and the SJO Foundation for Hope.
“Our troops face separation from home and loved ones while they are deployed so Torque Sports and Performance wanted to do something special to let all our Military know we appreciate their sacrifice,” said Scott James, President and CEO of Torque Sports and Performance. “We contacted our friends at Orange County Choppers, a brand that is synonymous with American ingenuity and quality, and they agreed to build a custom chopper for us to give away for a special occasion.”
The perfect special occasion turned out to be the shipment of Operation Gratitude’s 800,000th care package. James and business partner Scott Templeton were present at the armory to make the announcement about the gift Chopper, which will be revealed and presented to the package recipient at the Armory in December of this year.
Reflecting on the magnitude of the occasion, Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek, explained that the 800,000th care package symbolizes:
- 6.4 Million pounds of donated product
- $8 Million shipping expenses
- 40 Million items
- $80 Million worth of product shipped since the organization started in 2003.
Yet the real significance of all those numbers, Blashek said, is that they represent the enormous generosity of the American people, individually and through businesses.
“The reason we celebrate this package is first to recognize the more than two million brave warriors who have deployed over the last 10 years,” she said. In addition, we acknowledge “the hundreds of incredibly generous Corporate Sponsors who ensure we can fill the packages and the thousands and thousands of supporters who donate funds,letters, scarves, Beanie Babies and all the other items that go into our packages.”
Finally, Blashek noted that the tally also highlights the extraordinary dedication of more than 14,000 local volunteers who have given tens of thousands of hours of their time to collect, receive, log in, sort, inspect, organize, prepare and assemble the donated product into these “Thank You” care packages.
“No other organization in history has sent this many packages personally addressed to individual service members,” she exclaimed.
According to James and Templeton, the Chopper, which will be built this summer, has a Rolling Thunder frame, S&S 100ci polished EPA engine, a custom Torque paint job and a primary cover with five authentic U.S. Military coins (representing the 5 Military branches) embedded on it. “The designs on the rear fender will pay tribute to the wonderful volunteers of Operation Gratitude and to the U.S. troops of the past, present and future,” James said.
To commemorate the surprise Milestone day, each volunteer received a special “March to a Million” dogtag that reads: “I am a part of Operation Gratitude History.” The limited-edition dog-tags will be available to all donors of at least $15 (the cost to assemble and ship one care package) from July 1 through October 31, 2012 and then again during special designated months in 2013.
In case you need some convincing to join us at the armory in the future, here’s a fun little video from one of our longtime and loyal volunteers….Enjoy!