Walter Reed Super Bowl Party
February 2, 2014
February 2, 2014, was indeed a “super” Super Sunday for MarineParents.com and the volunteers of our outreach program Purple Heart Hero Support East. We helped with football festivities at three separate locations at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center complex—Tranquility Hall (Bldg. 62), the main hospital (Bldg. 10), and Mercy Hall (Bldg. 50). We mobilized in a way that even our Marines could envy, ensuring that the Super Bowl festivities touched all on this base.
For the first time, MarineParents was honored to co-host the large Super Bowl party for the outpatient community at Walter Reed, along with several other benevolent organizations who had been involved in the past. The main party was attended by approximately 500 of our recuperating heroes who are now in a rehab setting at Tranquility Hall. This turned into an absolutely awesome party for all.
Mike Murphy, a MarineParents.com board member and former college football player, traveled from Missouri for the occasion. He summed it up perfectly by saying, “it was the best Super Bowl party I ever attended, and I did not get a chance to watch a single play.” I echo his sentiments completely. I was also honored to meet Mike’s old friend James, a former NFL player who flew in from Ohio to join us. Through his company RollingThundar Advisors he became a very strong advocate for us as we reached out to the NFL and other sports groups. We had solicited all of the NFL teams and sports-related companies for memorabilia donations, and in large part due to James’ help, their response was overwhelming— we collected over $27,400 in items for raffle and door prizes. From autographed footballs, jerseys, and pictures, to hats and shirts, we had an abundance of gifts to offer and lots of very happy fans. The Steelers, Ravens, Giants, Titans, Packers, and the NFL Front Office all very generously donated.
We received incredible support from two corporate donors in particular. Nike provided us with over one hundred pieces of both men’s and women’s apparel. Their high-quality sportswear included everything from weather-resistant track suits to running shorts and tank tops, and all were very popular gifts at our promotional tables. FOX Sports also donated 216 of their customized T-shirts, and all were greatly appreciated and in demand from the troops at the party.
The Troy & Theodora Polamalu Foundation also very graciously joined us by donating over 40 items. Troy’s personally autographed jersey, football, 10 signed football cards, and dozens of his Legendary Brand shirts were incredibly popular. The larger gifts were put into a free raffle where all attendees could put their number into a drawing for them, while hats, T-shirts, sweaters, and team water bottles were freely given out at our MarineParents promotional tables.
We also had an abundance of gifts from the MarineParents EGA Store for the attendees to select from, and by day’s end, our tables had been emptied. Our troops chose from the Purple Heart lapel pins and car magnets, and also handy gadgets like the EGA key chains and bottle openers. There were also decorated rubber ducks in suitable “attire” for all of the military branches. Lots of our brochures on all of our different Outreach Programs and resources were also taken. Our adapted gym shorts that have had the seams removed and replaced with Velcro were also in demand, as some wounded heroes still have a need for adapted clothing while they’re recuperating. These shorts offer them the dignity and ease of putting them on around casts and tubes. They are also always very popular on the surgical floor of the hospital, where we serve our semi-monthly dinners. The shorts were so popular that we gave away our “demo” model and took an order for a size that we had run out of.
Two gigantic 12 feet high by 30 feet wide TV screens were set up, courtesy of a large group of FDNY firefighters who joined us, and it was like watching the game at the theatre. Volunteers Dean, Donna, Rene, and I also came in for several hours on the Saturday beforehand to team up with the Maryland Patriot Guard Riders to help decorate. We covered all of the windows to keep light and other distractions from entering into our new, improvised sports bar. Festive football food was prepared on site (proudly co-sponsored by MarineParents through assistance from a generous donor, Jay Thomas, another former football teammate of Mike and James), with pizzas, cheeseburger sliders, chicken wings, and Swedish meatballs, along with all types of side dishes, salads, and desserts—it was all very delicious.
This Sunday was also our regularly scheduled buffet dinner at the main hospital on base for all of our wounded heroes who are still undergoing surgeries, along with their families and friends. We made sure to include them in the festivities too and provided football memorabilia for 55 inpatients. They all enjoyed their catered California Tortilla dinners, and our volunteers there had also decorated the buffet line in a football theme with lots of snacks, desserts, and a Super Bowl sheet cake. The volunteers also took desserts and snacks over to 15 other recovering residents of the Mercy Hall facility who did not attend the main party. Volunteers Rene, Ed, and I also took them football memorabilia and catered food from the Tranquility Hall party. When I returned there at midnight for my crock pot, all of the food had been devoured, and the football items had all found happy new owners. The duty clerk said that they all had a great time together. MarineParents had ensured that everyone at three different facilities was well taken care of, and in particular those at Mercy Hall could watch the game in a family-type atmosphere.
Back at the main party, it was an all-day event. The Redskins and Ravens cheerleaders helped to make the day special for many who wished to talk and have their pictures taken with them. Actor and ardent military supporter Gary Sinise also attended and was extremely popular with all of our troops, both at the party and the hospital. Ronan Tynan, the “Irish Tenor,” came and sang his famous renditions of the National Anthem and God Bless America. He has an absolutely beautiful voice, and I’m sure that I was not the only one to get goose bumps hearing him sing.
Our three MarineParents promotional tables were busy all day long with a steady stream of happy visitors. In particular, one Army soldier in a wheelchair was a huge Steelers fan. We gave him one of everything from his favorite team, and he was totally tickled. He had hopes of winning the Troy Polamalu autographed jersey in the raffle, but unfortunately, his number wasn’t called. That really didn’t matter though, because the young man who did win it immediately walked over and freely gave it to him. This selfless behavior is so common amongst the combat wounded patients. They all share the same struggles, goals, and support for each other.
Although a lifelong fan of one of their main NFL rivals, I must objectively admit that the Pittsburgh Steelers were on the same page as we are when it comes to supporting our military! I have a new-found respect for what a classy organization they are. All of our MarineParents members in “Steelers Nation” have lots to be proud of, and your black and gold team colors were very well represented at this party. They had amazingly sent us 50 of everything from their Gift Shop to give out to our troops—from summer brim caps to winter knit hats, a wide variety of T-shirts, 3 x 5-foot flags, key chains, and also 250 of their “Terrible Towels.” ALL 500 attendees were also given a commemorative jersey to wear, emblazoned with “Still Undefeated” and the number 62 for the building number of Tranquility Hall. This year’s jersey was in the Steelers’ black and gold in recognition of the doctors from the University of Pittsburgh and Johns Hopkins, who performed a state-of-the-art double arm transplant surgery last year on one of our injured Army soldiers.
Our MarineParents motto of being “A Place to Connect and Share” also rang very true. Twice, young men both made the connection between my MarineParents shirt and unique last name on my ID badge to say “I served with a Marine with that last name.” Sure enough, they had both previously been with my son. Through the marvel of cellphones, I was able to call my son 2,000 miles away and say, “Remember so & so? – I’m standing here talking with him!” My son also got to say hello to his buddies, and it was a heartwarming moment for all involved, to realize the lifelong connections they have with one another through the United States Marine Corps and events like these that bring them together, out of their daily routines at the hospital.
It was definitely like being with family with all of the troops at the party, and I’m already looking forward to making the celebration even bigger and better for next year. We are grateful to the support of MarineParents.com headquarters and the generous individuals and organizations who helped make this possible.
~Paul R., PHHS East Coast Volunteer