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Betty Dillard
bdillard@bizpress.net

Since its beginning 12 years ago, the Sky Ball fundraiser, a partnership between American Airlines and the Fort Worth Airpower Foundation, has soared to become a nationally recognized event that directly benefits North Texas veterans, members of the military, wounded warriors and their families.
Last year, the event raised a record $1.25 million, bringing the total amount Sky Ball has raised in the past four years to more than $4.5 million. The proceeds from the event support members of all branches of the military and their families through various contingency programs at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth and other military installations across the United States.
“There’s nothing like this in the country and that’s gotten noticed,” said Jim Palmersheim, chairman of Sky Ball and American Airlines director of veteran affairs. “Last year set a record in donations. The uniqueness of the event sets us apart from other military celebrations. We always try to make sure Sky Ball is on the cutting edge of making an impact. We want people to have a lot of fun but also to help support and honor our service members, veterans and their families.”


Sky Ball got its start with the Fort Worth Airpower Council, which dates back to 1958 when Gen. Curtis LeMay and Frank Kent, a local businessman, started the organization to support Carswell Air Force Base, today’s NASJRB. In 1999, the FWAPC created the Fort Worth Airpower Foundation to raise funds in support of the military and their families.
The foundation – one of the country’s longest serving military charities – is dedicated to supporting North Texas military families, and Sky Ball proceeds help provide financial assistance. Many of these families struggle to makes ends meet financially when their loved ones are called to active duty and, in many cases, for multiple tours overseas. Support includes financial aid for those with a family member who has been deployed, departure and welcome home receptions, support for welfare and relief projects of the units based in North Texas, and care packages and gifts to soldiers wounded in combat and recuperating in military hospitals.


Sky Ball proceeds also fund a range of nonprofit programs for military members and veterans, including: Heroes on the Water, helping veterans heal through fellowship and fishing; Freedom Flight, taking heroes of the Greatest Generation – World War II veterans – to visit their memorial in Washington, D.C.; Wound Warriors Veteran’s Day Weekend in Las Vegas; Snowball Express, helping children of fallen military heal and make new memories; the Gary Sinise Foundation, building homes for the most severely wounded veterans; Thanks USA, providing scholarships to military families; the American Fallen Soldiers Project, providing an original portrait to the family of a fallen warrior; the Medal of Honor Foundation Educational Mission; Air Compassion for Veterans, providing medically-related air transport to military families; Kilimanjaro Warriors, a motivational expedition for wounded warriors to climb Mount Kilimanjaro; and the General Richard B. Myers Veterans Training Program, training veterans for careers as biomedical equipment technicians.
This year’s celebration is slated for Oct. 25 at its new home at the American Airlines Hangar at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, a presenting sponsor.


Last year Sky Ball honored all who served in Iraq, hosted a tribute to the U.S. Marine Corps, and celebrated the 100th anniversary of marine aviation.
The 2014 celebration will include a special tribute to those who have served in Afghanistan and in the Korean Conflict, with a salute to the U.S. Navy. In addition, several living Medal of Honor recipients will be honored.
Palmersheim said it is important to remember that this December military personnel will return home from Afghanistan. One million service members will rejoin the civilian rank in the next five years, he said, and they will need assistance to help transition into careers and education.
“Sky Ball will be more important than ever. It will become even more important to help meet the needs of this generation of warriors and their families,” Palmersheim said.
 

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