I was thrilled when the good folks at WTAR AM in Norfolk, Virginia invited me to join their annual Talkfest and chose my favorite charity, Operation Family Fund, to be the recipient of all the fundraising events. Well, I am reminded of that expression, “Be careful what you ask for because you might get it!”
I spent the better part of the last week flying to Norfolk, flying around Norfolk and flying back from Norfolk. This weekend I felt I was a whirling dervish, swept up in a crush of activities to raise awareness and funds for Operation Family Fund. For those of you who haven’t listened to my radio show in the last 4 years, OFF (OperationFamilyFund.org)is a non-profit which gives 100% of every dollar donated to the families of our fallen or severely injured military heroes who served in the War Against Terror.
And in the midst of the packed schedule, I broadcast my radio program from WTAR Radio studios (owned by Sinclair Communications). I can’t say enough about how professional and cuddly everyone was. It is tough to do three intense and intimate hours of radio outside of my “nest,” so it is very important that the environment be cozy.
Friday morning I was on a tour of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and enjoyed lunch with Commanding Officer, Capt. Dan Cloyd and Rear Admiral Phil Cullom. When we were on the bridge, everyone expected me to make a bee-line for the Captain’s chair – but NO – I went straight for the steering wheel! Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the steering wheel on a huge aircraft carrier is about the same size as the one in my SUV! It goes to show you that small things can steer large objects.
That evening, several hundred people came to the “Help, Hope & Heroes” dinner at La Galleria Ristorante (120 College Place) in Norfolk. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous food. Clark Howard, George Noory, and Glenn Beck were there to support the silent auction for Operation Family Fund. I even bid on a glass putter (to be a gift for one of my colleagues) but got outbid at the last second.
Saturday morning, WTAR held its annual TALKFEST, and while Sean Hannity was on stage giving a talk, I rode in on the back of WNIS Radio’s morning co-host Dave Parker’s hot motorcycle. Sean was his usual adorable and generous self and offered $20,000.to Operation Family Fund if I took off my pink Harley Davidson jacket, signed it and then made it available to one of his audience members via a drawing.
At noon on Saturday, I went to Hampton Roads Harley-Davidson, hooked up with several hundred (mostly Harley) bikers, and off we went for a “Bikers for the Brave” ride. Staying in the spirit of wanting to give the shirt off my back for our brave warriors, I auctioned off my white and pink Harley helmet. The biker folks were wonderful — I want to tell you – if you want to be around a group of kind, fun, warm, generous and patriotic folks – get yourself a motorcycle and join just about any club in the USA.
After the ride, I was off to the Convocation Center for my talk and a live auction – with brilliant auctioneer Ed Zedd raising more than $8,000; this included one of my custom necklaces (designed and constructed solely by me).
We had a color guard from the USS Eisenhower and a lovely solo performance of the Star Spangled Banner. Trane Dealers worked with all their people and raised almost $20,000.
The only sour note was when some sub-human lowlife broke into Tony and Robin Alexander’s Natural Hair Image Salon and robbed them of almost $3,000 they had collected from customers for weeks to give to OFF. When the local ABC TV affiliate WVEC ran their story on the Friday evening news, hundreds of local Virginians rushed to help and have since given more than what was stolen. And I’m sending them a check to cover the loss as well.
All told, the weekend raised more than $80,000 for our wounded warriors.
After my hour Q & A with the TALKFEST audience, I signed some programs and books, then slept my way 3000 miles back to my bed by 3 AM.
So I’m tired, but I’m happy that so many people took time out of their busy, busy, busy lives to help a worthy cause. God bless our military and their families – without them we wouldn’t be the land of the free.