The occasion was the distribution of proceeds from the What A Country Challenge, the brainchild of Discovery Bay’s Frank Morgan and his “Team.” What started as a plan to celebrate Morgan’s earning a master’s degree turned into an effort to raise money for local veterans. The team threw down the gauntlet, challenging others to party, pass the hat and contribute to the well-being of the men and women who protect Americans’ privilege to have such fun.
The idea swept East County and beyond like wildfire: About 800 people attended Morgan’s party (which also sprawled across six neighbors’ homes); another bash was held at the Discovery Bay Yacht Club; a Car and Motorcycle Show was sponsored by Red Barn Hot Rods; a red, white and blue hot tub was carted around far East County on a “Freedom Tour” by Ed McClellend; jumpers from Bay Area Sky Diving dropped in; three bands played, sponsored by Bill Brandt Ford; and a Vietnam-era Army helicopter sat on the front lawn as a decoration, courtesy of Harvest Park Bowl. Laurie Yglesia of Discovery Bay spent $400 on a special magnum of wine labeled in memory of Iraq casualty Spc. Joey Graves – and she doesn’t even drink wine. Restaurants, Web masters, party suppliers and supporters of all types all came together (for a complete list of all 200 or so, log on to www.whatacountrychallenge.com and click “sponsors”).
“I’m very honored that I get to be the one up here that talks,” Morgan told a crowd of about two dozen assembled for the distribution at the Veterans Memorial Building in Brentwood on Saturday. “But there were a lot of people that came together to do this. It was off-the-chart unbelievable. The most important thing is that all this came together to raise money to help our troops.”
Assisted by the board of the Veterans Memorial Building, which handled the finances and provided the umbrella tax ID to make donations deductible, Morgan handed out eight checks:
1) Wounded Warrior Project = $1,000
National organization providing services and support to severely injured service members.
2) Homes For Our Troops = $1,000
Raises donations of money, building materials and professional labor, coordinates building a new home or adapting an existing home for severely injured veterans, and then gives the home to the vet at no cost.
3) Delta Blue Star Moms = $1,000
Mothers of local service members who provide support for each other and send packages to troops overseas.
4) Ed McClelland = $2,000
Conducted the Hot Tub Tour and manned the booth at all the stops for more than two weeks. Ed has also sent more than 180 packages overseas, and will use the money to send more. It was “a true blessing to have been a part of this,” McClelland e-mailed this week. “Frank Morgan keeps deflecting credit/praise – he put together something really special. So many people stepped up and made a difference for our soldiers and veterans.”
5) Kevin Graves = $2,000
Kevin, the father of Spc. Joey Graves, will use the money in the Joey Graves Foundation to promote veterans’ causes such as the pursuit of Gold Star license plates for the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
6) Martin S. Wise = $4,000
Wise, a Coast Guard veteran who lives in Oakley, has terminal cancer and a host of other medical problems. “I am so appreciative of what you’ve done for us,” Wise said on Saturday. “I lie in my hospital bed at night wondering how I can care for my family. This really helps.”
7) Brentwood Veterans Memorial Building Inc. = $4,000
The Brentwood Veterans Building is a place for all veterans to socialize and meet on a regular basis for veteran activities. The Board of Directors is in the process of remodeling the outdated bathrooms in the building so they are ADA compliant.
8) The Anthony Family = $6,000
Don Anthony is a veteran who has undergone hip replacement surgery and suffers from other ailments. Sandy Anthony has been diagnosed with inoperable brain and lung cancer, along with many other health problems. The Knightsen family, which includes three teenage daughters, has lost its home and is currently searching for a place to go.
“This check is life-changing,” Don said Saturday. “We just can’t believe the outpouring of love from the community. We’re thankful for everything everyone has done for us.”
Morgan closed by reminding the crowd that the What A Country Challenge wasn’t a one-party event. His team is looking into monthly events to continue to raise money, and promises another major party next summer.