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Dreamgivers’ Gala

A Military Salute

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger  | Photos by Don Perry 

The Tennessee Ballroom of the Memphis Hilton was filled with patriotic pride as the Forever Young nonprofit organization hosted its 10th annual Dreamgivers’ Gala to pay homage to military veteran servicemen and servicewomen. In addition to offering guests an evening of dining and dancing, Forever Young raised funds to return Battle of the Bulge veterans to Europe in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Army’s largest battle.

Guests were greeted with cocktails and had the opportunity to “capture the moment” with props from Hotshots Photo Booth. Items like a toy wooden train made by a veteran and a pin autographed by WWII Normandy veterans that contained sand from the beach at Normandy made for an extra-special silent auction. A live auction continued the evening’s fundraising efforts. 

Dr. Tim Foster, who served as Chaplain in the US Navy Reserve and as Senior Pastor of Highland Heights Presbyterian Church, gave the Invocation. Daniel Hight, Executive Director of Forever Young, welcomed the crowd and introduced Major General F. Dexter Tutor, USAF (Retired) who led the group in singing “God Bless the USA.”  A Grand Salute was given to veterans in the audience, calling on each service unit to be recognized as the US Armed Forces Anthem was played. A special group of veterans, those who had been POWs, received a standing ovation.

Diane Hight, Founder and President of Forever Young, shared a video presentation of the recent reunion of local veteran K. T. Robbins, 98, with his first love, Jeannine Ganaye, whom he met 75 years ago while serving in France. The application for the trip included a question about anyone from the war the veteran wished to find — Robbins asked for help finding Ganaye’s family. Forever Young was able to locate Ganaye and arrange a brief reunion while Robbins was on the trip abroad. 

Following the video, Ms. Hight made the presentation of the Jack Taylor Volunteer of the Year Award, so named for the senior veteran who has tirelessly raised over $150,000 for Forever Young. This year’s award was given to two women, Chris Batte and Elaine Oakes, who recently hosted the first Forever Young event in Alabama. Ben Emerson, a 16 year-old Eagle Scout was recognized with the Junior Jack Taylor Award for founding and chairing a 5K race, for two years in a row, to raise money for veterans’ trips to Pearl Harbor and Normandy. Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC was recognized with the Decade of Dreams Award. The evening continued with musical entertainment by the Memphis Knights Big Band. For more information about Forever Young, visit foreveryoungvets.org. 

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