Ten local military veterans and first responders were saluted for their bravery, service and sacrifice on Thursday night as part of a charity wine tasting event to benefit Operation Gratitude. The Santa Clarita Valley Business Marketing Group’s second annual fundraising event, staged outdoors at the Hyatt Regency Valencia, brought together hundreds from the local business community who sipped wine and munched appetizers prior to a 45-minute program to recognize the award recipients. The evening also featured a silent auction with items donated by local individuals, groups and businesses – with all money going to support Operation Gratitude, a Chatsworth-based non-profit that works to express appreciation for U.S. military and first responders, according to its mission statement. The 10 honorees:
Thomas J. Martin
Richard “Dick” Ramsey
Keith R. Smith
Each honoree was recognized as an SCV American Patriot by the SCV Business Marketing Group and received certificates of recognition from the offices of Assemblyman Dante Acosta, state Sen. Scott Wilk and Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Acosta attended the program, offering his thanks to the honorees and paying his respects to Stephen Del Bagno, the Valencia pilot who was killed last month during a routine aerial training flight for the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron in Nevada. Since its founding in 2003, Operation Gratitude has sent some 2 million care packages to deployed troops and first responders, Maggie-Mae Laufman, marketing director at Applied Resource Insurance Solutions and a member of the SCV Business Marketing Group, told the crowd. On Friday, Laufman reported $1,500 had been raised to support Operation Gratitude’s continued work. The care packages typically include food, hygiene and entertainment items, plus handmade gifts and letters of appreciation. The SCV Business Marketing Group, established in 2016, has also hosted events to support Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley, JCI Santa’s Helper’s Toy Drive and the Million Little Foundation. The group’s other major annual event is a Thanksgiving-themed Give ‘N’ Gobble in November.
A journalist of 25 years, Steve Kiggins is editor of the Santa Clarita Valley Business Journal. Prior to joining The Signal in December 2017, Kiggins was based in Utah as an executive editor in the USA TODAY Network and worked more than a decade in media and education in Wyoming. Follow him on Twitter, @scoopskiggy.