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Dinner honors Gold Star families May 15
Frank Aquila goes over some of the paperwork he’s accumulated ever since he began planning the Never Forgotten dinner to honor Gold Star Families that have lost loved ones at war. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
Frank Aquila knew absolutely nothing about what it would take to put a dinner fundraiser together.

He got the idea almost two years ago to organize something for Gold Star Families who had lost a loved while defending America. Organizing a dinner to say thank you to those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice seemed like the perfect option.

The dinner is being billed as “a tribute to our Gold Star families (to provide) each of us an opportunity to show our appreciation.” Two speakers are confirmed so far. They are retired Marine Lt. Col. Chuck Norton and Assemblyman Bill Berryhill.

Now that the event on Friday, May 15, is just over a month away with the deadline to purchase tickets approaching even faster, Aquila is finding out firsthand how much work goes into organizing a charity event.

“When I started doing this I really knew absolutely nothing about what I was doing – I thought it was just find a venue, find a caterer, and off you went,” Aquila said. “Now I’ve got stacks of papers and people to call back and it seems like I’m always on the phone.

“But it’s a cause that’s definitely worth supporting, and I’m hoping that other people realize that as well and come out to pay their respects to these families that have had to live through what most parents couldn’t even dream of.”

Thanks to the assistance of Gold Star Father Mike Anderson who lent a hand with the organizing and Place of Refuge Pastor Mike Dillman who offered his church as a location, things slowly started coming together.

Tickets eventually got printed. Gold Star families were located and invited – being presented with a free meal in addition to having their loved one honored in a slide show that will be presented as part of the evening. And word began to spread about Never Forgotten – the title that Aquila gave to the event to remind people that even after the phone calls and the flowers and the visitors stop coming, that there are still people out there that care enough to show their respects.

“These are all people who paid the ultimate price in defense of freedom, and the least that we can do is make sure that their memory and their sacrifice is something that we don’t ever forget,” Aquila said. “This is something that I wanted to make a non-partisan event – it’s why I waited until after the election – so that everyone regardless of their political beliefs can pay their respects to these men who died so that we can go about our daily lives.”

All remaining money will be donated to various charities supporting our military families including: United American Patriots, Wounded Warriors Project,  Military Moms in Manteca & Tracy,  Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Fund for local scholarships,  Never Forget the Fallen, and Boots for Books.

Tickets for Never Forgotten are $50 a person with the exception of active military personnel and their families as well as veterans who can pay $25 – which is $5 less than the cost of the chicken and steak dinner.

All tickets must be reserved by Saturday, April 25, and can be purchased at The Place of Refuge Church located at 486 Button Avenue, and the Main Street Café located at 1351 N. Main Street. FTM Mortgage located at 44 W. 10th Street in Tracy will also be selling tickets.

Those wishing to purchase tickets or make a donation via mail can send checks to: Frank Aquila, 1715 Widmer Lane, Manteca, CA 95336. The names listed on the check will be added to the guest list. For more information, contact Aquila at 825-0123.