‘Celebrate the Night’ tribute to honor veterans Nov. 10


Tammy Greco didn’t know when she left the house one morning with her youngest son for a shopping trip that her life would be changed.

On that unassuming outing, Greco bumped into a K9s for Warriors trainer with a pup named Bravo – an encounter that would prompt her to ask how she could get involved with the organization. The inquiry would lead her to learn a heartbreaking truth about veterans helped by the dogs being trained.

“I heard something that really hurt my heart,” said Greco, recalling the day she went to K9s for Warriors to ask about volunteering. “I learned that some veterans, after their tour of service, deal with such hardships that they sometimes can’t even leave their home.”

Determined to find a way to say “thanks” to veterans, she began organizing a fundraising event for their benefit. Affectionately dubbed “Celebrate the Night,” the event is set to take place Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Nease football stadium from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Featuring music by the school band, a march by the NJROTC Color Guard, a performance by Atlantic Coastal Dance Studio and a presentation of appreciation, the night is meant to be a celebration and a proper homecoming for veterans. In addition, the event will include certificates and letters of thanks from children to local vets, readings of appreciation and an illumination of candles during a moment of silence to honor fallen soldiers.

Participants will be able to honor their loved ones with a donation of $10 per candle bag, which will be displayed along the stadium track reflecting the name and military branch of each hero being honored. Presented as a joint effort between Valley Ridge Academy and the Nease High School Band, the event will also benefit K9s for Warriors, with a portion of the proceeds supporting the nonprofit’s efforts to aid veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

Greco hopes the tribute will attract strong community support.

“I would like to see members of the community join in the celebration,” Greco said. “Come to show support and walk the track to (see) the path of heroes and know the names of each. Let family members and friends of the fallen heroes know that even though they may not be standing in person with us, they are remembered in our hearts.” 

Grateful for the support of all of the community members and organizations involved – among them, Atlantic Coastal Dance Studio, Helping Hands of Nocatee, Nease’s JROTC, local stations and papers and even Senator Travis Hutson – Greco said her “heartfelt appreciation” goes to those who’ve brought the tribute each step closer to fruition. From these efforts, her ultimate hope is that the lives of local veterans are made better with the measure of thanks.

“I wanted to find a way to say ‘thank you,’” she said. “I believe saying those words can make a difference – and if it makes a difference for even just one veteran, maybe they’ll be able to step outside.

“Maybe they can hear a voice of appreciation and know what they did made a difference for me, for the community and our children,” Greco continued. “My hope is to show appreciation with the help of the community and to teach our children to appreciate and respect the freedoms and liberties we have.”

Donations to “Celebrate the Night” can be made through the purchase of honorary candle bags through Valley Ridge Academy’s PTO. Orders may be placed via email and by order form once they become available. Donations of water bottles for performers are also welcomed.

Volunteers are also needed to spread awareness of the event, assist with clean-up after the ceremony and to prepare and alphabetize candle bag labels. Interested parties can reach Greco by email at tjgreco2009@gmail.com or by calling (917) 684-6085.