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Dreamgivers' Gala

Saluting Veterans

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger | Photos by Don Perry

For the eighth year, the Dreamgivers’ Gala, hosted by nonprofit organization Forever Young Senior Veterans, paid homage to veteran servicemen with a night of dining and dancing. The evening began with cocktails as guests were greeted by the elegant sounds of pianist Al Gorski, a Navy transplant to the Memphis area, tickling the ivories. The opportunity to “capture the moment” was offered by Don Putnam Photography with props from Memphis Photo Booth.

Senior veterans, many in uniform, were joined by family and friends in the Tennessee Ballroom at the Memphis Hilton. Daniel Hight, Executive Director of Forever Young Senior Veterans, welcomed the crowd of attendees, saying it was the largest gathering to date for this annual gala. While guests dined on a dinner catered by The Hilton, Daniel gave an appreciation speech to the veterans in attendance.

Diane Hight, founder and president of Forever Young Senior Veterans, (and Daniel’s mother) said, “I’ve had a passion for senior citizens my entire life. The name Forever Young speaks for itself; no matter the age, a person always wants to feel young at heart.”

“When Forever Young was first founded, we worked to change the image of aging and redefine it with self-confidence, respect and a hopeful life for seniors,” said Diane. “In 2006, the organization was founded to meet a huge need in the senior adult community. In October 2009, the mission of the organization changed to honor senior veterans and sought to offer World War II veterans an opportunity to travel to see the National WWII Memorial in Washington DC. Now hundreds of WWII, Korea and Viet Nam veterans have also been honored through trips to Washington DC, Belgium, Italy, Normandy and Pearl Harbor.”

This year’s Dreamgivers’ Gala served as a fundraiser to send WWII veterans to England for the first time since the war ended.

“Due to the ages of our WWII veterans, this is will be Forever Young Senior Veterans’ last exclusive WWII ‘Trip of Honor,’” explained Diane. “And even though this is the last trip for them as a group, we will continue to honor them with individual wishes as long as they are on Earth.”

Guests were treated to a glimpse of what those trips are like through an emotionally moving video presentation that showcased moments from previous visits. Diane made the presentation of the Jack Taylor Volunteer of the Year Award, so named for the senior veteran who has tirelessly raised over $100,000 for the Forever Young organization. This year’s honoree was Emily Garrett, a young volunteer whose grandfather served at The Battle of the Bulge. Briarcrest graduate Marianne Agee, now a Mississippi State student, was awarded the Junior Jack Taylor Award. She is studying to become a physical therapist and hopes to specialize in working with wounded soldiers.

Adding to the fundraising efforts of the evening were options of purchasing a “bottomless glass” of beer or wine or selecting a box at a jewelry pull sponsored by Kendra Scott. There was also a “key pull” for a chance to win a weekend in New Orleans. A two-night stay at the Hilton Riverside was bundled with tickets to the WWII museum, the Victory Belles Show, a 4-D movie called, “Beyond All Boundaries” and gift certificates to several popular restaurants in the Crescent City.

A live auction continued the evening’s fundraising efforts, with Fox 13 news anchor Darrell Greene serving as auctioneer. Following the auction, a Grand Salute was given to veterans in the audience, calling on each service unit to be recognized as the US Armed Forces Anthem was played. A special group of veterans, those who had been POW’s, received a standing ovation. The evening continued with musical entertainment by the Memphis Knights Big Band. It was a memorable night for all.

For more information about Forever Young Senior Veterans, visit foreveryoungvets.org.

 


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