Military and disabled veterans honored at annual Support Our Troops event

This year, All From The Heart celebrated their 13th annual Support Our Troops event, bringing together active-duty military families, disabled veterans, community organizers, local businesses and volunteers. The event, which was free to all in attendance and open to the public, was held Sunday, Dec. 4.

This year’s event, which was held at Galway Downs in Temecula’s wine country, included a fly-over, opening ceremony, and a speech by Senator Jeff Stone.

After the completion of the opening ceremony, one of the features of the event was Santa, who rode onto the property on a customized Harley Davidson motorcycle. After his arrival, Santa distributed toys and gifts to each of the family members of the 30 military families that had been selected to be honored at the event.

Every single member of each family, from the parents to the children and anyone else who lives in the household were each given gifts that had been specially selected and purchased with each recipient in mind.

In preparation for each year’s Support Our Troops event, All From The Heart asks each military family they are planning on honoring for Christmas wish lists, so the organization has enough time to buy personalized gifts for each of the family members.

“We spend about $100 for each and every family member, even unborn children and any other family members, such as grandparents who live with the families,” Judy Harter, co-founder of All From The Heart, said.

The highlight of the day for many of the more than 60 children in attendance was when they were surprised with a brand-new bicycle and helmet specifically purchased for each child. By finding out in advance what each child was interested in, each bicycle and helmet was purchased with that child’s interests in mind.

From their favorite colors to their favorite characters, each child got a bike that catered to their individual tastes.

Each child received an age-appropriate bicycle or tricycle and matching helmet featuring super heroes, fairy princesses, Disney characters and more.

“When we rolled out all those bicycles with each of the children’s names on them and told the children it was time for them to go find the bikes that had been bought specifically for them, watching them run to find their bikes was just amazing,” Harter said.

This year, All From The Heart gave out 62 bicycles and tricycles with new helmets, Harter said.

Judy Harter is the heart and soul of the annual charity event.

All From the Heart, which Harter co-founded in 2001, is an all-volunteer, 501(c) (3) organization that supports disabled veterans and their families in the Temecula Valley and Southern California.

“This year, we once again selected 30 active-duty and veteran military families to honor at our event,” Harter said. “Most of the families we invited have special needs or circumstances, such as missing limbs and military veterans suffering from PTSD.”

“We believe when one family member serves in the military, the entire family serves,” Harter said.

The celebration featured excitement for all the children and families in attendance; including a bounce house, balloon artist, arts and crafts, face-painting and a magician. Throughout the event, the entertainers wandered through the crowds and entertained children and adults alike at their tables, bringing the fun and excitement right to them.

Lunch was also served during the event.

One of All From The Heart’s charitable programs that hasthe biggest impact on disabled veterans is the groups’ Wheels for Warriors program.

Wheels for Warriors’ mission is to provide freedom and independence back to disabled veterans by gifting power wheelchairs and mobility scooters to provide disabled veterans with the freedom to live their lives more fully.

“When our veterans receive their wheelchairs, they regain a sense of freedom and independence,” Harter said. “Their lives are immediately changed, and the veteran’s quality of life is improved. It is a real blessing to witness these miracles.”

During Sunday’s event, the organization gifted two recently donated and refurbished power wheelchairs to disabled veterans.

One of the veterans, who was paralyzed from the waist down and was selected to receive a power wheelchair, served five years in the Navy. He then served his community for 20 years as a City of Corona police officer and two years with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

The other veteran who received a power wheelchair was a Vietnam veteran who served in the Air Force. He was selected when he was not able to obtain a power wheelchair through the VA. His father – who also served in the military – was also the recent recipient of a power wheelchair from Wheels For Warriors.

The power wheelchairs gifted during the event were the 396th and 397th wheelchairs to be given to veterans since Wheels For Warriors was created.

“Galway Downs came on board for us in a huge way this year,” Harter said. “By hosting our event, Ken and Tina Smith – the owners of the property – allowed us to move from a crowded parking lot to a truly beautiful venue.”

“Paradise Chevrolet was also a huge part of this year’s event and sponsored $5,000 towards the gifts that were purchased,” Harter said.

To learn more about All From The Heart and the various programs the organization offers, or to find out how to donate a new or used power chair or make a donation, visit www.allfromtheheart.org.

To donate a used or new power wheelchair or scooter, please contact All From The Heart at (951) 290- 8387.

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