Aussie Hero Quilts Annual Thank You Dinner …….. Gift Bag Surprise by Gail …..

Written by AHQ

2 November 2017

Who doesn’t like getting a surprise? 

Jan-Maree surprised all the quilters at the Canberra dinner with a Gift Bag containing some fabric and a variety of fantastic items. 

This is the story of the Gift Bags
As if just being able to attend and meet recipients wasn’t exciting enough, Jan-Maree decided to give each quilter attending the dinner a Gift Bag as an extra thank you. She contacted all the Squadrons, ships and Army units that we have provided for, plus a few others, and asked them to send whatever items they could. These came in to AHQ headquarters in various boxes and packages over a period of time, were sorted and, if necessary, some smaller items were packed in cellophane bags. 

J-M also approached the Gutermann thread people, Bernina and the Handiquilter people for donations.

The wonderful Joy Hodges, who was everyone’s contact for the dinner but who couldn’t attend herself, also donated a variety of handmade items, such as pincushions and key tabs.

When booking their places at the dinner, quilters had been asked to nominate their favourite colours. Every effort was made to provide some fabric in the desired colour range from the supplies of donated fabrics at AHQ headquarters. Other fabrics were also added to the mix.

Jan-Maree’s home, already stacked with fabrics, as well as quilts and laundry bags waiting to be sent off, acquired random boxes and bags of goodies which lined the hallways before they were whisked off to Canberra on J-M’s regular weekend visits. Just as well AHQ’s Canberra annex is sparsely furnished!

On the Saturday morning before the dinner, all the Gift Bags, labelled with name tags, were transported to the ADFA venue and stashed away out of sight under tables, where they remained until they were presented to the quilters.

Try to visualise the quilters unpacking their Gift Bags back at their accommodation and feeling like kids at Christmas as they revealed all the treasures. It was an exciting time!

On behalf of all the quilters, I would like to say thank you to all the organisations, squadrons, units, ships and others who donated items for these gifts to the quilters. 


Thanks Gail

I am not sharing all of the pics of people receiving the gift bags as most of them are those awful awkward unflattering photos showing people about to hug etc with frozen looks on their faces or taken at unflattering angles and I don’t think most people would like to see them published. Recipients helped to hand the bags and door prizes out and what a hoot.  Suffice to say that the volunteers received their bags with lovely hugs and kisses on the cheeks, big smiles and lots of laughter.  Handing the bags out and calling out the recipients of the Lucky Door Prizes was organised chaos… more or less… but a very happy event. 

I asked the recipients of the Gifts to write a few words so here you go…. enjoy the read and the accompanying photos… they tell the story much better than I could!

Hi JM ,
Another Dinner done and dusted, well done to all who packed , displayed ,told stories ,sent donations to fill gift bags were tour guides or guest speakers. Thank You.
Displaying our goodies , Laundry Bag under construction from blocks in our bag also Quilt Top made using 9 patch blocks in the Surprise Challenge pack.Every picture tells a story ,so hoping Photos are do just that.
Thanks for the opportunity to attend
Cheers Bev & Geoff C


Hi Jan – Maree
Isla and I have made a video of thanks for all the wonderful gifts I received from the dinner last Saturday night .
Fabulous time thank you , I will be making more quilts, in  the coming months , You do an amazing work , I will try to get a couple of friends on to making quilts for AHQ , so we can attend the dinner next year, are the annual dinners in Canberra each year ?
Many thanks Peg

(Unfortunately I cannot get your video to play on the blog Peggy!)

 Dear Jan-Maree,
Greetings, I hope that this finds you well and rested.
Thank you for the effort everyone put in to make up these bags and especially to all the Service Personnel for their contributions, notes and explanations accompanying some of the items.
The WO’s near me on the night must have thought I had lost the plot, as I was very excited to receive my Navy Hat, immediately pulling it out of the bag and putting it on. The joy of these items accumulating from my early childhood experiences of when two of my brothers served in the Navy in the time of Korea. On the way back to Melbourne we stopped at Wangaratta to visit one brother who is in poor health, and share the joy. He still talks about the Navy Years.
I have opened and packed up my items several times.  I can assure you items of sewing, fabrics, tape, thread and scissors will be put to good use, the badges from the Army treasured. Love the wrist band and in my favourite colour, purple, will be worn.
Thank You
Robyn Whitelaw


Hi Jan-Maree
Here are some photos of my wonderful gift bag and Jeff with his bear.

It was a real surprise to receive all these gifts. I didn’t expect them. I just love sewing the quilts and laundry bags and sending them away. The recipients are the ones doing the hard yards to protect our wonderful peaceful country and I love doing anything to let them know of the great job the Defence Force is doing.

Cheers and have a good day. I am loving hearing about the weekend.



I love my HQ Zinger. I no longer have to search for my scissors when I find a rogue thread!
Bev F 

I’ve just picked up my NAVY pen to do an Aussie Hero’s quilt design work.  I’ve been using it all this week.  A simple little everyday pen!  But every time I pick it up, it brings me such joy to see the ships on it and the word NAVY…reminding me of the Sailors, Soldiers and men and women of the Air Force that are out there doing the hard stuff, maintaining our freedom and quality of life. Thank you for my very special gift.

I just LOVE all my treasures from the bag. Nic Nac’s from the Services touch my heart. And my table cloth from Dubai…gorgeous!  Using Bernina pen to design quilt LOL!
Sandy C

Hi Jan-Maree, Thanks to all those wonderful service people ,Bernina and others for spoiling us with all the gifts. I could not hold them all .Just loved Kim’s perfume..very exotic.
Warm Regards Jenny N


Hi JM,

I’ll get my husband to take of photo of me with some of my goodies but thought I’d write a few words to go with it, hopefully the few words below are ok Feel free to delete names if need be :o)

What an amazing night at the Aussie Heroes thankyou dinner at ADFA last weekend, I had a wonderful night and then to cap it off we were all given goody bags!! It was so unexpected but what a thrill, maybe that’s how our troops feel when they open one of our parcels, very special..

I appreciate all the gifts that were donated but I especially want to thank Command WO K.G. Robertson and SGT Roddy Ross  and everyone from HQJTF633 for the Aussie Hero Patch made in Kabul Afghanistan with donations from our deployed personnel…Thankyou so much it will be treasured!

Also I would like to thank Penrith Patchwork for my $30 voucher and I received an awesome Bernina pen so a big thankyou if that was from you also?

Thankyou’s too to Navy and Airforce for some wonderful goodies :o)
The HMAS Arunta Cap and the HS white cap are fantastic and have been added to my collection ( gifts of appreciation from my recipients)

The handwritten thankyou’s along with a Task Group Taji-V Iraq patch is just wonderful…again a real treasure, thankyou!

Last but not least I would like to thank WGCDR Michael Dujvene de Wit for the very special 4 squadron medallion. A real privilege to own and it already has pride of place in my sewing room..Thankyou so much.

Cheers Jacqui D


I travelled to Canberra with Rachel from the Penrith sewing group.  It was the first time either of us had gone to the dinner.  We had a really great time.  We crammed so much into the weekend.  The tour of Duntroon Military Academy,  The Last  Post Ceremony at The Australian War Memorial, the Friday night event featuring talks by Aussie Hero recipients and Helen Godden who is an amazing quilter and had so many of her award winning quilts to show us. 

The dinner on Saturday was very special and many quilters were introduced to their recipients.  The evening finished with all quilters being presented with a gift bag full of items donated by the different services.   When Rachel and I got back to our hotel we sat on our beds and went through our bags, we were just like a couple of kids going through our Santa sacks.  So much fun.  Lots of sew on patches, caps, pens, fabric in our favourite colour and novelty USB sticks.  Each bag was individualised to suit each person,  I don’t know how Jan-Maree and her band of helpers got all that done.  You are all amazing.

Then to finish the weekend we breakfasted at Poppies and said our farewells to new friends before heading home.    Helen W

Caroline and her awesome, stubbie holder

Caroline with, among other goodies, the beautiful gift basket from the wonder people at JMCO Sydney! Much appreciated.

CPL Cohen, won by Clarissa in the Lucky Door Prizes… thank you to Soldier On.

Deni in her favourite room with her goodies… note her beautiful pashmina

A happy little AHQ Minion, Gracey, with her goodies.

Sharon, checking our her goodies

The other Sharon’s bag of gifts

Jess with some of her goodies…

Kate with some of her gifts, including one of three HMAS Newcastle supporter medals.
Hope you can make it next year so I can actually meet you!

A happy Liz J

Lynn with the figurine she won in the Lucky Door Prizes

Thank you Bernina

Husbands are often our enablers, here is Grant, Pennie’s husband with a couple of books, courtesy of the RAAF, a cap and T shirt from Pennie’s bag of gifts

and grandchildren count too… Grandma Pennie’s tape measure being quality tested

Relma with her goodies… sorry we did not get to chat more on the night

Here are a few more details of those who contributed to the Gift Bags everyone received.

The Command Warrant Officer from JTF633 sent an all-points email out to spread the word.    

Air Force Office and Navy Office contributed to our cause. 

The Air Combat Group Squadrons and Defence Force Recruiting supported us.

SGT Ross from HQJTF633 took some donations and had special patches made just for us based on the design of the current HQJTF633 patch and sent them to us.

Other groups and individuals, in no particular order, that sent items include 


Soldier On, 

HS Blue Crew and HS White Crew from patrols boats in Cairns, 

HMAS Arunta, 


HMAS Darwin, 

the Special Operations Engineer Regiment, including their K9 Group

No 2 Commando Regiment, 

the Contract Management Cell at Al Minhad Air Base, 

Director Support HQJTF633, 


the Expeditionary Airbase Operations Unit – Middle East Region, 



Several serving members from Kabul and AMAB who will not be named.

A huge thank you to all of those who contributed to the gift bags and lucky door prizes.   You made a bunch of volunteers feel very special. 

Till next time… keep spreading the word and happy stitching!

Jan-Maree xx

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