To the classic roar of freedom at a “Support the Troops Rally” style event on December 11, 2010, a record-breaking two thousand cheering Operation Gratitude volunteers witnessed the arrival of a very special gift to be sent in the organization’s 600,000th Care Package: A 2011 Victory Vegas 8-Ball.
SSG Elizabeth Cowie, co-founder of the organization, rode the bike onto the drill floor and added the bike’s key, along with several other unique gifts, to the Milestone package, proudly assembled and held by Ann Kurachi, a cheerleader from Trabuco Hills High School. Kurachi was flanked by Santa Claus and dozens of Military dignitaries, elected officials and Operation Gratitude “Hard Corps” Volunteers.
Carolyn Blashek, who started the organization in 2003, thanked Victory Motorcycles, a division of Polaris Industries, for their generous donation of the motorcycle, and recognized the tens of thousands of volunteers, donors and supporters who have contributed throughout the years to the assembly and shipment of 600,000 care packages.
“Operation Gratitude Care Packages are an expression of enormous respect and appreciation for those who voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom,” exclaimed Blashek. “This exciting 600,000th package event represents a celebration of all the brave Americans who wear the uniform of our great nation. We are honored to send this package to a young Service Member currently deployed in harm’s way, who represents all our courageous heroes– past, present and future–from all branches of the Military.”
In addition to the all-black, Victory Vegas 8-Ball cruiser, the 600,000th package will include a year’s supply of both Emergen-C and 5 Hour Energy, a lovingly hand-made scarf, a Flip camera from Café Press, a DVD player, a MEElectronics M-9 Earphone Set, t-shirts and hats from Victory Motorcycles, Operation Gratitude and UCLA, a signed picture from the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, and assorted items and personal letters provided by more than 250 Corporate Sponsors and Friends, and by tens of thousands of individual donors across the country.
A secret but very special delivery of the 600,000th Care Package is underway.
The winners of the “Guess the Halloween Candy Weight,” contest were announced, having guessed within a few pounds the total weight of candy donated to Operation Gratitude through December 3: 178,056 pounds, 14 ounces (89 Tons) .
Blashek and Cowie informed the energetic crowd that the 600,000th package represented:
~ 4.8 Million pounds, equal to 2 ½ million TONS of product
~ $6 Million of postage
~ 30 Million individual items
~ $60 Million worth of product
sent to the troops through Operation Gratitude since its inception in 2003.
Operation Gratitude Volunteers were honored to work side by side with Brigadier General Mary Kight, the Adjutant General of California, Major General John Harrel, the Commander of Army forces in California, Command Sergeant Majors William Clark and Bob Brickley, the senior enlisted Soldiers in California and South Carolina, respectively, plus representatives from several Corporate Sponsors, Women in Film, members of the Motorcycle community, and dozens of school, church, scout and civic organizations.
Significant check presentations were made by Cinnabon, Inc ($50,000), Merrell Down and Dirty Mud Run ($33,800), Lake Havasu Patriot Days ($34,000 plus 1000 Stuffed Animals, 200 hand-made Scarves and 5000 letters), and National Charity League, San Fernando Valley Chapter
& Coast to Coast Computer Products ($20,000).
During the lunch hour, Volunteers were treated to a delicious meal generously provided by the Rotary Club of Lancaster. Corporate Sponsor Alacer distributed samples of its Emergen-C products, two million packets of which have been included in Operation Gratitude packages since 2004.
The 2011 Victory Vegas 8-Ball has a new 106 cubic inch Freedom V-Twin engine, a 6 speed overdrive transmission, and 113 ft-pounds of torque. The bike will be customized with the “Victory Military Salute Badge,” the symbol of Victory’s gratitude to the men and women who sacrifice for our freedom.
With the shipment of its 600,000th package, Operation Gratitude wrapped up its 2010 Holiday Drive, having assembled more than 100,000 care packages for U.S. Service Members this year. Tax deductible financial donations to pay the $15 per package cost to assemble and ship the packages are still accepted online or by check addressed and mailed to:
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436
Online credit card donations (tax-deductible) can be made here: DONATE NOW