FORT HOOD, Texas -- Volunteers from the non-profit Celebration of Love distributed about 1,200 bicycles to Soldiers and their families at the old Sports Dome building here, Dec.11.
This is the 14th year that Celebration of Love has distributed gifts at the Great Place, according to Tom Ramsey, the president and founder of the charitable organization. In 2006, the organization was able to give just 25 bikes, but the organization continues to grow and gain support so that now they give more than a thousand every year.
Growing and preparing for events like these take months of preparation, Ramsey said.
“We started planning, our IPR (in-progress review) meeting started back in September getting prepared for this moment,” Ramsey said. “Today, we’re doing the drive-thru, social distanced because of COVID. It is a challenging time, but we did not want to not participate in bringing the love and the joy to all the children here at Fort Hood.
“We were able to persevere through the challenges, and with all the work of the great team here at Fort Hood and all our volunteers, and our team at the organization, and with God’s blessing, we were able to raise funds to make it happen,” Ramsey added. “So, we’re very grateful, and it’s just a beautiful thing.”
Ramsey said this year, with the pandemic, he feels events like these might be needed more than in previous years.
“It is different from years past for sure,” he said. “Mainly because of the challenges that we were up against, but you know what, God takes care of it all. It’s worked out so far.”
The Celebration of Love has volunteers who help raise money and show up to this event from all across America, Ramsey said.
“We’ve had people come in from California,” he said, “We have folks from Houston. We have folks from Miami. We even have volunteers that are veterans that drove in the semis from Wal-Mart.”
Wal-Mart was a big sponsor who donated bicycles for the event.
The distribution of the bicycles happened in the drive-thru outside the facility, but inside the facility, a long-time contributor to Celebration of Love was honored during a small ceremony attended by senior leaders from Fort Hood.
Ann Henry, a Fort Hood Good Neighbor inductee as of this past February passed away in June. In her honor, Celebration of Love commissioned a portrait of Ann for her surviving husband, Patrick Henry.
Ann has been a long-time supporter of the Soldier of Fort Hood and was the organizer of the Thanks to the Troops Golf Tournament held bi-annually at the Sun City golf course in Georgetown.
“You know she was just a super incredible generous lady and she worked with us under our umbrella of a 501(c)(3),” Ramsey said. “So we became real good friends for the past several years, and she provided stellar support of Celebration of Love.”
During the ceremony, Richard Hight, an artist from Oklahoma, drew a large color portrait on canvas in just a little more than 10 minutes. Afterward, a smaller painting was presented to Ann’s widower, Patrick.
“It’s overwhelming. Totally overwhelming,” Patrick said of Hight’s work. “He’s such a magnificent talent to do that, and he’s poured some blood into what could be just a drawing. It’s heartrending for me to have that and to have that at home as well … He certainly is a talent, and she would have loved it. She really would have. I think we’ve done well by her.”
“I glad about this,” Patrick said. “You guys have put this on and honored her in such a lovely way. She was a great woman, a remarkable woman. I could tell you stories that would keep you busy for weeks.”
Patrick was pleased to see the charitable works of Celebration of Love continue to take place on Fort Hood.
“It got beyond me years ago,” Patrick said. “She’d been doing it for several years now, and when she amalgamated with the Love organization, of course, that gave it more power. So yes, it’s gone beyond my comprehension of what she and I thought it might be.”
Ramsey said was important to honor Ann in front of Patrick and the leaders of Fort Hood.
“It was extremely important for a lot of reasons.” Ramsey said. “One, to show him how much we did care, how much she meant to the Soldiers and how much she meant to us as an organization. What better way to honor her than to see that painting come to life before his eyes. And I think that it was heartfelt, and it was real. It wasn’t like he just made a picture and handed it to him. It was actually revealed before his eyes. And I think that that was the impact.”
Visit www.celebrationoflove.org for more information.