The line outside the entrance grew as the clock revealed the gates would open in thirty minutes. It was a picturesque field of lime green, black, and blue shirts. The different colors represented various ministries and volunteer groups all working swiftly to put the finishing touches on what would be the landscape for the annual Boots Off! event.
As servicemen and women and their friends and families poured into Rock Church, they were greeted with smiles, orange bags chock full of school supplies, and raffle tickets. Mothers pushing strollers, fathers carrying little ones on their shoulders, and giddy teenage gals scurried across the field trying to decide what to partake in first; options included getting a complimentary haircut, devouring a bag of cotton candy, or getting their finger nails painted. Prayer stations, chair massages, and other military support services lined the perimeter of the turf, home to dozens of canopies shading youngsters as they played life-sized Connect Four and jumbo Jenga!
Inside the cafeteria, worship music rang loud and the cloth-covered round tables served as the perfect place to escape from the heat and eat a hot-dog. In between musical moments of praise, a hostess announced winning raffle numbers that brought additional tokens of appreciation into the lives of the men and women being honored. The gifts included a spa day for her, a night out on the town for them, and an amazing opportunity to attend the men’s retreat. Whatever the prize, the smiles were ear to ear.
“I have twins, so I will be using this gift card to buy diapers,” exclaimed one mother and raffle winner.
Even those who didn’t win a raffle prize still walked away feeling like winners. One young couple expecting their first child expressed a deep appreciation for the Boots Off! event, crediting the festivities with providing them a rare occasion to spend the day together without spending a dime.
As the event continued, a displaced veteran and his family received gift cards for groceries. Another family received a memorable gift for their first family portrait; a father had the opportunity to spend one of his final days before deployment with his loved ones, and a family of seven won a much needed computer! Before long the clock approached 2PM and the event came to an end. The volunteers trickled out and all who took part left with lasting memories of the lives that were touched by the generosity and gratitude of strangers who came together to thank these servicemen and women for their sacrifice.
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