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Dreamgivers’ Gala

Feel the Freedom

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger  | Photos by Don Perry 

For the ninth year, the Dreamgivers’ Gala, hosted by nonprofit organization Forever Young Senior Veterans, paid homage to veteran servicemen and servicewomen with a night of dining and dancing. Senior veterans, many in uniform, were joined by family and friends in the Tennessee Ballroom at the Memphis Hilton. The evening began with cocktails, a silent auction and a photo booth. Daniel Hight, Executive Director of Forever Young Senior Veterans, welcomed the crowd of attendees.

Forever Young was founded in 2006 to meet a need in the senior adult community. In October 2009, the mission of the organization changed to honor senior veterans and sought to offer World War II veterans an opportunity to travel under escort to see the National WWII Memorial in Washington DC. Now hundreds of WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans have also been honored through trips to Washington DC, Belgium, England, Italy, Normandy and Pearl Harbor.

“Our mission is to bring healing, hope and closure to any area veteran who is 65 years old or older,” explained Diane Hight, founder and president of Forever Young Senior Veterans (and Daniel’s mother). “This year we’re raising money to send D-Day veterans to France for the 75th anniversary of the WWII Allied invasion in Normandy.”

Guests were treated to a glimpse of what those trips of honor are like through an emotionally moving video presentation that showcased interviews with some of the veterans. It was clear to see that these senior veterans longed to return to their former battlefields, not just for themselves, but also to honor their fellow servicemen and servicewomen who never made it back home.

The Jack Taylor Volunteer of the Year Award, named for the WWII veteran who has tirelessly raised over $150,000 for the Forever Young organization, recognized volunteer Larry Netter, who conducts research to secure overdue medals and helps locate lost comrades for reunions. The Service Award recognized Steve Hibbs and Mike Ware for their volunteer efforts, escorting veterans on Trips of Honor and spending quality time with area veterans year-round. Ben Emerson was awarded the Junior Jack Taylor Award for his Eagle Scout project that raised $17K to send three veterans to Pearl Harbor.

A wine pull added to the evening’s coffers, and a live auction continued the fundraising efforts, with Fox 13 news anchor Darrell Greene serving as auctioneer. The evening continued with musical entertainment by the Memphis Knights Big Band. It was a memorable night for all. 

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