Chicago-Area Kids Raise $100 for USO at Afternoon Lemonade Stand

Marty, Jimmy and Nora McNaughton and their lemonade stand.

Marty, Jimmy and Nora McNaughton and their lemonade stand.

When Erin McNaughton’s three children told her they wanted to start a lemonade stand this summer — with the proceeds going towards the USO — it was a proud parenting moment.

“It was all their own,” McNaughton said. “[You feel like] you’re doing a good job as a parent when they come up with an idea that’s going to help others.”

It started one morning in August when the children, who have an aunt and uncle that serve in the military, decided out of the blue to create a roadside lemonade stand to raise money for the USO.

“They’re around the military atmosphere and they like it and they see [why the military is important],” McNaughton said.

After about an hour of sign drawing, lemonade making and organizing, the kids were out in front of their Chicago-area house ready for their first customer. McNaughton estimates between 20 to 30 people stopped by the stand to buy lemonade that afternoon, although the majority of customers paid much more than the 75-cent list price.

“They were handing over five dollars, 20 dollars,” McNaughton said. “We had a great turnout. It was so cute. ”

At the end of the day, the McNaughton children had raised roughly $100, which they hand-delivered to the USO of Illinois office in downtown Chicago.

“The creative initiative that these young patriots demonstrated is inspired,” USO of Illinois President and CEO Alison Ruble in an email. “Embracing the true meaning of Every Moment Counts, they have provided a poignant reminder of what it means to give back to those who serve our nation.”

Rachel Feinberg, who works as a marketing associate at the USO of Illinois, said the organization only gets a few community-based, spur-of-the-moment donations a year.

“It was awesome,” she said. “The kids looked like they had a great time and it was just great to see some of the younger generation taking on the USO and helping us out.”

Wawa Hoagie Day Kicks Off $700,000 Fundraising Campaign for the USO

PHILADELPHIA—Wawa chose America’s birthplace on Independence Day weekend to launch its most ambitious campaign yet to support the USO.

Celebrity chef and USO tour veteran Robert Irvine joined Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens and hundreds of service members, police officers, fire fighters and first responders as well as dozens of USO volunteers and Wawa associates to construct a 5-ton hoagie on Thursday. The meal – which equated to 23,000 individual sandwiches – was served for free at Independence Mall during the 23rd Annual Wawa Hoagie Day.

“There’s nothing more fulfilling to me in my life than cooking for our warriors and their families and making sure that they know that we love them,” said Irvine, who recently returned from a USO tour to Japan. “The USO is a huge part of that.”

The event, which featured a USO Letters from Home station and hoagie-building competitions between service branches and police and fire departments, marked the start of Wawa’s annual USO fundraising campaign. The campaign runs through August 30 and aims to raise $700,000. Wawa customers can to donate $1, $3 or $5 when making purchases, which will go directly to support USO programs for troops and their families.

“For July fourth there’s no other place you should be than Philadelphia,” said Joe Brooks, President and CEO of Liberty USO. “It’s a wonderful community. A community that knows and understands the service and sacrifice of our military and it’s a community that steps up in many ways, both in donations of their time and money to the USO.”

Epic Fundraiser: Jay Leno’s Muscle Car Raised $565,625 for the USO

Auction houses selling rare and expensive collector cars are usually teeming with excitement, but at Gooding & Company’s 2015 Scottsdale Auctions in Arizona this weekend, there was an extra layer of celebrity buzz when comedian Jay Leno rolled out his prized 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8—with all proceeds benefiting the USO.

Rare and exotic Ferraris sold for multiple millions, but the highlight of the auction was Leno’s Challenger. The crowd roared as bidders competed for the patriotic prize in the one of the most exciting bidding displays Gooding & Company has ever seen.

The bidding started at $50,000 and when the auctioneer finally dropped the hammer at $360,000—nearly 10 times the car’s blue-book value—USO President and CEO Dr. J.D. Crouch II, present at the event, was filled with pride. The entire auction house stood for applause. However, the giving wasn’t done. Nobody was prepared for what happened next.

“After the car sold, one of the men who lost the bid for Leno’s car stood up and offered an on-the-spot cash donation for the USO—he would match anyone’s donation up to $100,000,” said Crouch.

Paddles began flying and within moments, another man committed to donate the full $100,000. Additional donations kept rolling in to the tune of $5,625, which meant that thanks to Jay Leno and other generous supporters, the USO would receive a total of $565,625!

This isn’t the first time Leno has flexed his charity muscle for the troops. In previous years, he has dedicated his annual Love Ride to the USO, and just two months ago, after returning from entertaining troops on a USO tour in Afghanistan, he joined the TODAY show to “Shine A Light” on troops back home by gifting another of his Dodge Challengers directly to a wounded soldier.

“We’re overwhelmed by the response that we got from those who attended the auction,” said Crouch. “The funds raised here will go far to advance our goals of expanding our services to men and women in uniform.”

Are You a Rugged Maniac? Join Team USO

How far are you willing to go to support our troops? Would you leap over burning coals? Low-crawl through the mud under barbed wire? Traverse cargo netting, hop through a series of tires and navigate a balance beam over a pit?

If you want an opportunity to challenge your endurance and reach physical goals you never thought possible in support of troops and their families, then you should join Team USO this year for a Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race.

“We’re very excited about the good things we can accomplish together,” Rugged Races CEO Bradford Scudder said. “The USO’s mission aligns with that of Rugged Maniac by recognizing and supporting our troops and their families.”

Rugged Maniac – which has announced 22 events in 2013 and expects more than 200,000 participants – hopes to raise $1 million in support of the USO.

“It’s a realistic goal,” Scudder said. “If each of our participants donates $5, we’ll get there. And this is a wonderful cause, so of course there will be individuals who’ll go above and beyond that $5 donation.”

From boot camp to battlefield back home again, the USO is the only organization that always stands by the side of troops and their families. Team USO members are crucial to supporting that cause.

–Video and Story by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

At Home In Our Hearts

Today, as they do every day, our brave servicemen and women are going to extraordinary lengths to protect our freedoms and defend our way of life.

During this holiday season, I’m asking you to take a moment to thank our troops and honor their service.

Your At Home In Our Hearts donation will allow us to translate your heartfelt “thank you” into the vitally important programs and services that mean so much to our troops.

Click here to make your contribution to support of our troops. Make your At Home In Our Hearts donation to the USO today and we’ll send you an American flag as a token of our appreciation.

Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 11.35.53 AMI am immensely proud to be a part of an organization dedicated to being on the frontlines with our servicemen and women and standing side-by-side with our wounded troops recovering here at home.

As part of the At Home In Our Hearts campaign, the USO will provide our troops with free phone calls home, wounded warrior recovery care packages, mobile USO2GO kits that bring a touch of home to our troops serving in even the most remote outposts abroad.

So whether they’re serving on the frontlines or recovering here at home, you can let our troops know they’re always At Home In Our Hearts.

Make your year-end donation to the USO today and get your American flag.

I want to say “thank you” for all you have done and continue to do for our troops especially, particularly around the holidays. I can’t tell you how grateful they are to know supporters like you are standing by their side and supporting them. – Brigadier General John Pray, USAF (Ret.)

Georgia Couple Rallies Support for USO

Jack and Pat Solomon, decade-long USO Georgia volunteers, at their home outside of Atlanta, GA. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

If you are in the military and have spent any time at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, you have probably been hugged at least once by Pat Solomon.

She and her husband Jack–a graduate of West Point–are two of the many friendly, welcoming and warm couples who volunteer at USO Georgia. For the past 10 years, the Solomons have worked at least three days per week at the Atlanta airport USO, but more recently they have embarked on a new mission—fundraising.

Throughout the summer the Solomons will travel over 1,000 miles to visit more than 100 Kangaroo Express stores in Georgia, dropping off USO fundraising materials and engaging with employees to officially launch the Kangaroo Express Salute Our Troops campaign.

Involving more than 1,600 Kangaroo Express stores, the Salute Our Troops campaign is the largest grassroots fundraising initiative the USO has ever participated in, raising $1.3 million for the USO in its first year.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, custom painted vehicles and decorated veterans of the recent wars will travel throughout the South capturing the attention of Kangaroo Express guests and educating the public on problems facing the military and military families.

According to USO account manager Kirk Parker, the campaign has been such a success because of patriots like the Solomons who literally go the extra mile to develop a personal relationship with Kangaroo Express staff and management of every store in their area.

“We do what we can do here because these men and women are doing what they can over there,” said Jack Solomon. “Our small contribution of time and gas pales in comparison to the sacrifices being made by our sons and daughters overseas. It’s our way of saying ‘Thank You’ to them for volunteering to serve. Not everyone can, and not everyone will. We must recognize and honor this.”

“She (Pat) is the biggest military cheerleader you’ve ever seen,” he added. “She absolutely lives and breathes the USO and the support for our troops. We believe that energy is contagious—it can be spread to the staff of Kangaroo so that they bring the same energy toward troop support you might find at an actual USO.”

“He is the reason I do it,” said Pat. “He and every other American who has ever served this country—I love them all.” — By Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

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