What a GREAT day! On Saturday, December 15, more than 2,000 Operation Gratitude Volunteers joined to celebrate two special events: The assembly and shipment of our 900,000th Care Package and the presentation of the custom built Orange County Chopper to the recipient of the 800,000th Care Package.
Surrounded by family members, cheering volunteers, and celebrity guests Urijah Faber (“The California Kid”-UFC), Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds), Erik Estrada (“Ponch” from CHiPs), and Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), a California National Guard Soldier accepted the motorcycle he first learned about in August when he received the Milestone package while deployed.
Spc. Samuel Mancilla, a motor transport operator assigned to the 1072nd Transportation Company, 378th CSSB, 10th Sustainment Brigade, who recently returned from Afghanistan, was visibly moved by the outpouring of respect and appreciation, and was thrilled to become the owner of the Chopper commissioned and donated by Torque Sports and Performance and signed by Paul Teutal, aka “Paul Sr.,” one of the most recognized motorcycle builders in the world.
“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. “We contacted our friends at Orange County Chopper and they agreed to build a special custom chopper for us to give away for a special occasion–and this most certainly is that special moment.”
In addition, Spc. Mancilla received a gift basket of new Upper Deck products and an autographed LeBron James promotional poster from Sports Marketing and Social Media Manager, Chris Carlin of Upper Deck as well as a Certificate of Recognition from the City of Los Angeles, delivered in person by City Councilman Dennis Zine. And in a most touching moment, Spc. Mancilla gave a huge hug to long-time volunteer, Shirley Landau, who donated a week vacation anywhere in the country as one of the 800,000th package gifts.
Other special guests included: Cinnabon CEO Kat Cole, who announced that the company was making a $56,000 donation to Operation Gratitude; and Michael Epstein of MESP and the Merrell Down and Dirty National Mud Run Series who presented a $51,244 donation.
Also greeting the throng of volunteers were several distinguished members of the California National Guard, including Colonel Pete Kim, Command Sergeant Major William Clark, Command Sergeant Major Harold London, Lt. Colonel Angel Ortiz, Lt. Colonel Ted Arlauskas and Command Sergeant Major Refugio Rosas.
The volunteers included hundreds of individuals who joined friends and family members to pay tribute to the Military. Also participating in the day’s activities were 38 different school, Junior ROTC, church, scouting and corporate groups.
Watch the KTLA News report here: Operation Gratitude Reaches Milestone
Celebrating the assembly of the 900,000th Care Package, Carolyn Blashek, founder of Operation Gratitude noted the package represents $9 Million spent on postage, plus 45 million items worth $90 Million and weighing 7.2 Million pounds that have been sent to the troops, since the organization’s inception in 2003. But most importantly, the 900,000th package means that the organization is officially on its “March to a Million”– to assemble the One Millionth Care Package by the end of 2013.
Join Operation Gratitude on its March to a Million…and be a part of history…as the first volunteer-based, Military Support organization in the nation sends One Million Care Packages to our Heroes. Stay tuned for updates!
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Want to Volunteer? We may be up to 900,000 Care Packages, but the year isn’t finished yet — and neither is the work we have to get done in the next couple of weeks!! If you have time to spare, we welcome volunteers age 12 and up to join us at the armory!
Find the full schedule here: Volunteer Info and Schedule
Questions about volunteering? Need the address and directions to our Van Nuys, CA headquarters? Please send an email to Penny at: firstname.lastname@example.org – put the words “Operation Gratitude Volunteer” in the subject line.
As always, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!