A group of local patriots wanted to send a very special message to military personnel, law enforcement, and firefighters across the community. A message of gratitude, but they also wanted it to be so much more than words. And it was just that.
Written by CHARLOTTE TALLMAN
Photography by LISA MAYHEW-ORTIZ
On November 2, Lauren Martel and a small team of committee members held the first Tribute to Our Heroes—a completely free golf, food, drinks, prizes, and entertainment event for military members and first responders.
“I have a huge amount of admiration for military and first responders. I love and respect what they do, and I don’t think they get thanked enough,” says Lauren whose husband is an active duty F-16 fighter pilot. “I don’t think they ever get a day where they can just get together and relax. At this event they did.”
What started as an idea soon became a reality when Lauren and Toni Hernandez began working on the details. Toni was no stranger to planning one-day events and raising money with a purpose. She ran the Doña Ana County Teen Court program, Shattered Lives—the mock- DWI crash hosted annually at area high schools—for nearly a decade when the program stopped receiving funds.
To make sure the Tribute to Our Heroes event was free for participants, and distinctively special, Lauren and Toni knew they would need to cover the cost of the event including food and entertainment and find valuable raffle donations. The two asked Katie Gillis, Priscilla Ramirez, Bonnie Montoya, Jordan Kelley, Eileen Hernandez, and Mickey Gonzales to join the committee and together they reached out to the community hoping to find enough support to hold the event. They found it.
“We raised over $10,000 for the event. The response we got was so positive which shows how amazing this community is,” Lauren said.
The committee garnered 40 sponsors and multiple items from 13 raffle donors, including handmade cornhole boards from Madmax Woodworking.
“It was so good to see something like this for people of service,” says Max Gillis, participant, NASA firefighter, and owner of Madmax Woodworking. “It takes a lot of effort to set something up like this and that just made me feel even more appreciated.”
Other donations included gifts-in-kind from Sullivan Design, Lisa’s Design Studio, Montoya Creations, Able Signs, and Pain in the Bundt Baking. Rudy’s, Dunkin Donuts, Albertsons, and Sprouts donated food and water.
“I am a staunch supporter of our military personnel, law enforcement, and firefighters. I come from a military family myself, so I truly respect all that these men and women achieve for this community and country,” says Eddie DeArmond, a participant and sponsor. “They certainly allow us to enjoy all the freedoms that we experience today.”
Tribute to Our Heroes began with lunch served prior to the golf tournament at Red Hawk Golf Course for the 26 teams, which included 104 players that were active military, veterans, police, firefighters, and border patrol. The evening event included food, drinks, live music, games, and raffle drawings for the families of golfers.
“The support was amazing and it felt great to be appreciated. The committee didn’t leave anything out and included an event to show appreciation to family members as well, which is important. Family members of military and first responders sacrifice as well,” says Manuel
Casarez, a participant and border patrol agent. “I appreciate Lauren and everyone that helped put this event together.”
Lauren, a Realtor® at Steinborn & Associates Real Estate, moved to the community two and a half years ago when her husband was relocated. Before moving into real estate, she was a counselor and worked closely with law enforcement.
“It was really important to me for this to be a completely free event,” Lauren says. “I wanted all the participants to come together and enjoy themselves and I wanted them to leave knowing they are appreciated. The community support allowed us to do that.”
Joni Evans, whose company The Vue Apartments was a major sponsor, participated in the evening event with her family.
“These events are important not only to show our support for the men and women that sacrifice for the betterment of our community, but more importantly for the community to recognize their dedication and sacrifice,” she says.
Eddie agrees, adding that he hopes to see more community sponsored events like Tribute to Our Heroes throughout the community.
“I believe events like this send a resounding message to our local military, veterans, law enforcement, and fire department personnel that they are very much appreciated in our community. The long hours that they put in to keep us safe is very noble and this shows our support to these fine people.”