NAPE says thank you to an American Hero: Sgt. Michael Ryan, with his wife, Cary (left), and country music artist LeAnn Rimes.
If attendee numbers define success, the recent Winter 2011 NAPE Expo in Houston was successful indeed.
A just-about record breaking crowd of approximately 15,500 attended various special events and walked the crowded exhibition area to review the array of prospects being promoted.
But this annual confab is about far more than looking for the next big deal.
A highlight of Winter NAPE for the past few years is the American Heroes Luncheon, which honors severely wounded military veterans.
It’s a part of the NAPE American Heroes initiative, which was conceived by NAPE executive vice president and AAPG member Robin Forté in 2004.
The first fund-raising event for the soldiers was held at the 2007 Winter NAPE and raised $275,000. This year’s affair brought in approximately $350,000.
Since 2007, the American Heroes organization and its participants have donated more than $1.3 million to severely wounded soldiers.
The American Heroes Fund was established in 2009 to identify deserving organizations and to oversee the distribution of the contributions. The fund is a 501(c)(3), and contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law, according to Forté. One hundred percent of donations go directly to soldiers.
Forté noted the recent beneficiaries of the fund:
♦ Operation Homefront provides financial assistance to wounded veterans and temporary housing during rehabilitation.
♦ Bay Area Builders Association’s Operation Finally Home builds and provides paid-for homes with clear titles to wounded veterans.
♦ Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) trains and provides assistance dogs to disabled veterans. The fund has partnered with CCI to provide four matches of assistance dogs and disabled veterans. Breeding, training of the dog and the veteran and lifetime support services for each pair tallies $50,000. In August 2010, the fund announced a $50,000 contribution for the training and placement of a facility dog to be placed in the rehabilitation unit in the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center.
In December, the fund partnered with Extreme Makeover Home Edition, the Texas Builders Association and Operation Finally Home to build a home for the most severely wounded victim of the Fort Hood shootings.
“These guys are coming back pretty shattered from something they volunteered to do on behalf of all of us,” Forté said. “It’s a huge blessing to help them rebuild their lives.
“Whether it’s homes or dogs, these guys will all tell you this stuff is incredibly important to them in their recovery,” Forté emphasized. “We’re fortunate to have the platform at NAPE to reach out to the oil business to gather up some of the oil money.
“After the luncheon, someone came up and said he wanted to match Shell’s $25,000 donation,” Forté added.
This year’s annual American Heroes luncheon featured noted singer LeAnn Rimes, who provided entertainment and initially autographed two guitars for auction at the get-together. The high bid for one topped out at $9,000, while the other brought in $5,000.
“There was actually a third one after the show that went for $8,000,” Forté said.
The real showstopper at these luncheons is the presentation of cost-free homes to one or two of the wounded veterans. This year’s recipient was Sgt. Michael Ryan and his wife, Cary, along with their assistance dog, Kingsley, who also was present. The beaming couple noted the home was a complete surprise.
Wait – there was more.
The winning bidder for the $9,000 guitar presented it to the couple as a gift.