Frank Morgan said he was planning a June 27 get-together on the back deck of his Discovery Bay home to mark his earning a master’s degree. He invited his neighbors on each side, with whom he often holds communal barbecues, and as the invitation list grew, someone suggested raising some money at the same time.
“We decided we should make it a fundraiser, maybe for the schools or something,” Morgan said. “We didn’t want to waste the opportunity” by just holding a big party.
It was when the idea morphed into a patriotic effort to raise money for local veterans that the whole thing exploded. Coming just a week before the July 4 weekend, it seemed fitting to dedicate the bash to some of the men and women who made his education – and everything else in America – possible.
“In spite of all the sacrifice our military veterans have already given on behalf of our country, they continue to inspire us with their courage as they return home and quietly struggle daily with the physical and emotional scars that their service has left them with,” he said. “They’ve sacrificed a lot for us. The least we can do is party for them.”
The What A Country party for the troops grew to include a pig roasting on a spit, kayaks, paddle boats and a water trampoline, and three live bands brought in from San Francisco to play on a boat moored in the bay out back. The expected attendance grew to more than 400 invited guests, none of whom needed any persuading once the cause was known.
“People were saying, ‘Hey, right on! We don’t do enough for our troops,’” Morgan said, and merchants ranging from food vendors to graphics designers offered to pitch in with deep discounts. The San Francisco ROTC eagerly agreed to staff the event and provide security, and even Morgan’s tax accountant in Los Angeles said “Put me down for $100.”
It quickly became clear that enthusiasm for the effort would outgrow the capacity of the homes it was planned for (there are now five neighbors involved), so Morgan and his fellow planners decided to throw down the gauntlet to residents of all East County communities.
“We challenge all proud Americans to host their own What A Country party on the weekend of June 27 in support of our local veterans and families,” Morgan said. “Your guest list is your family and friends; even three people getting together can be a party. The goal is to raise as much money as possible to help our local heroes, and the potential is unlimited if we all separately do our small part.”
Morgan said he plans to coordinate with the various parties, offering fundraising tips and official What A Country signs to display at the event. He’ll also help collect the proceeds when it’s all over, and distribute them, along with the party hosts, to the beneficiaries.
As for the beneficiaries themselves, Morgan said that’s the best part. Locals are being asked to nominate a deserving local veteran, veteran family or vet organization that could benefit from a helping hand. Depending on the response, nominees could be assigned to particular events, or perhaps the proceeds of all the events could be pooled and split among them.
The goal, Morgan said, is to make “a significant impact” on the lives of those involved. He declined to mention dollar figures, but with a $10-per-head suggested donation just at his party, plus planned silent auctions and 50-50 drawings, the math is easy to do.
“If we can help someone with college expenses, get their car running or make some house payments, that’s great,” he said. “There won’t be any disappointment no matter how much we raise. It’s all a success.”
The Press has agreed to help by soliciting nominations for beneficiaries and providing regular updates on the planning process. The paper will also visit whatever parties sign on to take part, document the efforts of participants and donors, and attend the distribution of funds. Look for the What A Country logo accompanying this article for future updates.
Nominations of veterans, families or organizations should be no more than 200 words, and sent via e-mail to Morgan at email@example.com. Nominations via postal mail should be sent to What A Country, c/o The Press, 248 Oak St., Brentwood CA 94513. The deadline for nominations is April 30.
For more information, contact Morgan at 925-383-5346.