Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wishes + Welcome 2014!

Ending the Year on a (Very) High Note!

Serve Our Willing Warriors received a really incredible Christmas gift this year!  Several weeks ago Rev. John Patterson of Gainesville United Methodist Church called us up, introduced himself and then told us that GUM Church was hosting a Benefit Christmas Jazz Concert on our behalf.  As if that announcement wasn't enough, he went on to thrill us by telling us WHO the guest artists would be . . .

None other than Dave Detwiler and Prelude! 
(Better known around our nation's capital as "The White House Band"!) 
Merry Christmas to us!!!

I simply do not have the room to list the accolades, awards, performances, and prestigious positions of the members of this incredible group.  I will simply provide some links - read and be amazed!  Each member of Prelude has served in different branches of our military and performed with military bands.  So it is a group comprised of the 'best of the best'.  And believe me -- it was apparent!

Admission to the Christmas Jazz Concert at GUM Church was free with goodwill donations taken at the door to benefit SOWW.   The evening was extraordinarily special for the SOWW attendees.  We met gracious, generous members of the church + the community and were serenaded by the finest Christmas jazz arrangements and musicians imaginable.  Truly we were "mixing and mingling to the jingle bell beat" and enjoying every minute of it!

"First Call" Trumpeter + Teacher Extraordinaire - Dave Detwiler!

At one point in the concert, Mr. Detwiler took a back seat (or rather a front pew) to watch some of his extremely talented students (secretly planted in the audience) have a go at leading the rest of the band members in some spectacular arrangements.  Rev. John Patterson, who also demonstrated his own virtuosity on trumpet during the evening, is pictured seated next to his delighted teacher and friend.

Here Mr. Detwiler rejoined the group and played alongside some of his younger counterparts.  There sure was an awful lot of musical genius in that room!

At the end of the concert, the members of Prelude posed for photos and greeted the audience members.  It was the perfect close to the year 2013 and a perfect 'prelude' (pun intended) to Christmas and the New Year.

We are SO(WW) very grateful to Rev. Patterson and Gainesville United Methodist Church for their extraordinary Christmas gifts of hosting, donating funds + providing us all with a night of superstar talent!  

Many, many thanks to all the members of Prelude. You make us proud to be Americans!  Our toes will be tapping all the way into the New Year . . .

PS:  For all you folks out there that missed the concert - you can get a copy of "Christmastime in Washington" by clicking HERE!


(You'll wanna listen to it all year long!)

A "Willing Warriors" Christmas at Fort Belvoir

One of the loveliest halls you'll ever see 'decked' in holiday splendor is the beautiful new USO building at Fort Belvoir.  It is the perfect place for Warrior family gatherings and it feels extra warm and inviting during the holiday season.

We are always excited when we get to spend time with our Warriors at Fort Belvoir, but the visits are extra-special now that we get to host our events in this incredible facility.  With its massive fireplace, enormous kitchen and dining area, it truly is a haven for these families that are visiting their recovering Warriors.  We feel very privileged to be invited to utilize this amazing space. 

The cafe area filled up quickly as the Warrior Families came out for food, gift bags, gift cards and holiday camaraderie.

Smiling servers from Park Valley Church - our annual partners for 
this holiday event.

Many Warriors + their family members visited the SOWW table to learn more about our organization and to sign up for updates on the Bull Run Warrior Retreat. Many of them would really love to have the chance to enjoy a short stay at the retreat and take a break from the hospital / rehab environment.  

These are the faces of some of the families we hope to have as guests some day in the near future.

This USO posters really sums up our sentiments exactly!

After most of the crowd had eaten and received their gift bags and gift cards from SOWW, our president, Shirley Dominick, addressed the gathering.  Shirley shared SOWW's vision and then introduced our other partner organization for the event - iPods for Wounded Veterans.  We at SOWW really admire this incredible organization.  We have worked with them before and it has always been a great match-up, so we were delighted to have them at this special holiday event once again. 
After all the introductions had been made, Warriors were invited to sign up for their free iPods and raffle tickets to win additional prizes.

Long lines of warriors filled the hallways to register for all the gifts.

A Warrior reads one of the cards written by students from Fauquier County Public Schools which included a gift card from Park Valley Church.

SOWW's "First Daughter", Kelsy Dominick, spent the afternoon making new friends.
The iPods for Wounded Veterans organization is based in Massachusetts, so they were happy to find a couple of Red Sox fans among the Warriors.  But free banners were only the beginning -- lots of raffle numbers were called and many Warriors collected some select prizes (including iPad Minis). Watching these wonderful men and women light up when their number gets announced is always such a fun time.

One of our "Willing Warrior" Winners poses with SOWW President Shirley Dominick,  Paul Cardello (Founder and Chairman of iPods for Wounded Veterans+  SOWW VP John Dominick.

So here's to all our wounded, ill and injured Warriors + Their Families at Fort Belvoir -- we thank you, we admire you and we always, always enjoy your company!  We promise to work hard to make the Bull Run Warrior Retreat a reality so that we can help just a little more during your time of transition and recovery!

"God Bless Us, Every One!"
~ Tiny Tim ~  
(from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol")

Once again we must thank the individuals and organizations that came together to make the annual Fort Belvoir "Willing Warrior" Holiday Event so special.

Special thanks to Pamela Winn-Lovelace - the Warrior Transition Brigade Outreach Coordinator at Fort Belvoir.  She is the amazing lady behind the scenes that brings about so many special events and opportunities for the Warriors + Their Families.  (Plus she is a joy to work with each and every time!)

Thanks to our event coordinator, Sharon Chase, and Intelligent Designs for providing bags and blankets as gifts.

Our affectionate thanks to the members of Park Valley Church and Pastor Barry White for all the fundraising and involvement for these holiday events each and every year.

And a big 'shout-out' to iPods for Wounded Veterans!   We love you . . .    the Warriors love you . . . 

Let's do it again next year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Winter Solstice + A Holiday Open House at Bull Run Warrior Retreat

It was one very busy year for Serve Our Willing Warriors!  From early spring until late autumn SOWW had hosted multiple fundraising events, worked with many fantastic people, and prepared the retreat house for coming renovations. But as both Thanksgiving and winter approached, we really began to contemplate what the holidays at the retreat would eventually look like when the home was finally open to our Willing Warriors + Families. The more we talked about the holidays, the more we felt the need to decorate the house in its current semi-deconstructed state. We wanted to celebrate all the progress we had made in 2013 towards establishing a 'home away from home' for our recovering Warriors + Families by having a Holiday Open House to close out the year.

We called on our faithful volunteers to make a little space for SOWW in their busy holiday schedules and, as always, they were eager to help. Together, we decked, festooned and adorned Bull Run Warrior Retreat and then opened her doors to visitors for a house tour that featured a warm hearth, holiday tunes, hot cider and homemade Christmas cookies! 

Since it was December 21 - the first day of Winter, we were a little concerned that the weather might work against us. We had been pummeled with snow and ice a few days earlier, but that very morning the sun came out, the roads were clear and we had a lovely time with our guests all afternoon.  It was a delightful break from the usual holiday hustle and bustle.


Gathered mistletoe greeted guests in the front hallway entrance.

Our local Girl Scout volunteers brought a beautiful + fragrant fresh fir wreath for our fireplace that was donated by Camp Snyder.

After a quick pose by the tree, the Troop got to work at the fundraising table that featured our 
Mistletoe Forest Ornaments.

A hanging angel drew attention to the architectural drafts for the retreat house renovation and displayed some of our mistletoe harvested from the trees in the front yard.

Green clusters of mistletoe, a symbol of American resilience, could be viewed in the treetops from the front windows of the house.
(CLICK HERE to learn more about our mistletoe . . . )

SOWW VP John Dominick shared kitchen renovation plans with a local reporter.

The stockings, all hung by the chimney with care, brightened the family room where SOWW President Shirley Dominick chatted with a couple of guests.

Our Social Media Guru, Emily Hendrix, was on hand to share information about our GoFundMe Campaign and hand out our Chick-Fil-A Fundraising coupons.

Bull Run Warrior Retreat was truly festive, sunny and bright - even in her unfinished state!

Some of our lovely volunteers (Kiersten, Stacey + Keaghan Plaugher) took a short break from handing out hot cider and cookies to snap a family portrait.  
It always warms our hearts to see families volunteering together.

As the afternoon came to a close and the sun began to set, we basked in the warm aftermath of meeting so many new, wonderful people who were excited to share in the vision of 'giving back' to our Willing Warriors. As we swapped stories from the day, we realized that this was actually a very special period of time for Bull Run Warrior Retreat.  This was (and is) the season that we get to share it - and all it stands for - with the community at large.  This planning-stage period offers a unique window of time when people can freely walk through its halls + rooms and envision a home-like Warrior retreat with us.  

Some day soon, these rooms will be filled with our recovering Warriors + Their Families.  But until that day arrives, this home is a touchstone for the community.  It is a like a bridge linking community with our recovering Warriors. A place where people can volunteer to show their gratitude and appreciation to those who have served our country in a time of war. 

A place to serve; a place to heal; and a place to dream big dreams . . .

To schedule a visit to tour Bull Run Warrior Retreat, 

Many, many thanks to the Battlefield High School Dance Team, Eileen Walters and the Girl Scouts, Camp William B. Snyder, + all our additional SOWW volunteers who made the day possible.

Because of your holiday efforts, our retreat house truly began to feel like a home!