Aussie Hero Quilts Annual Thank You Dinner ……. THE BIG NIGHT……

Written by ahq_admin

24 October 2017

Oh what a night!!!   There are not many events that I have been involved in, except perhaps my wedding, that have required more planning and organisation, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed almost every moment of the organisation and the entire evening. I was determined to get to the end of the weekend without saying (or feeling) “thank goodness that is over” and I succeeded. 

My only regret, on a personal level, is that I just did not have time to talk to so many of you who attended and there were even some quilters who I have not met, who attended the Friday night event and the dinner, and who I still did not meet. I am planning something special, just for newbies or those I have not met before, next year so that will not happen again.

But back to this year’s dinner.
Our evening started at 1830 as guests arrived at the sign in desk at the entrance to the Officers Mess at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in Canberra.  They were met by these two lovely ladies who were not recipients.  

Tess (on the right) is married to a recipient and has been following our page for a while and she roped in Marianne to help.  They both came along on the Saturday morning and helped to set up, could not have done it without them!  Both of them received laundry bags for their efforts and in fact, Marianne will be deploying in the future and we will make sure that we look after her then of course!

Guest were encouraged to pause for a photo in front of one of the two Fallen Warrior Quilts.  Just a note, there was one with an RAN crest and one with a Rising Sun.  The RAAF was not deliberately left out, but the sad fact is that both these quilts are actually destined to head off in the near future to families who have lost loved ones. 

I had two photographers, Shelley, who writes the blog posts on Fridays,  seen here with her husband Dennis,

and Drew (on the left) who many of you have come to know, seen here with Don.  Those those that do not know, both of these fine fellows are ex-RAAF Air Traffic Controllers, like myself (except I am also ex-RAN) and Drew, in particular, has known me for a very long time…. since I was 19 in fact.   Don was also helping out, taking care of the audio visual part of the evening.

Drew’s most time consuming job for the night was to act as Master of Ceremonies…and he had his hands full keeping the night on the move and on time. 

The first job he had was to welcome everyone, including our VIPs.  
Commodore Mark Hill represented the Chief of Navy
(seen here with Warrant Officer Deb, our Ship’s Warrant Officer from back when we looked after HMAS Success and Nicole and Caroline L)

The Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, AO, DSC and Mrs Stephanie Copus-Campbell

The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshall Leo Davies AO, CSC and Mrs Rhonda Davies

The Commander of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston and Mrs Belinda Johnson

We were also blessed to have a former Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy and his wife Lee.   Lee is a quilter and has made a couple of quilts for us.  

Apologies were passed on from CDF and VCDF – both of whom sent their thanks for what we do and their best wishes for the success of the evening. 

The Minister for Defence was unable to attend and sent a really lovely letter to be read on the night… will come in a separate post. 

Drew called on Chaplain Mark Willis, our longest supporting chaplain, to give the acknowledgement of country and to say Grace. 

The evening moved on and we called upon Commander Cam Steil to be our first guest speaker. Cam was the Commanding Officer of HMAS Arunta whilst they were deployed earlier this year.

Our next guest speaker was Colonel Dan Bennett who served in South Sudan as the Commander of the Australian Contingent (COMASC)  in South Sudan.

Both men talked about their experiences receiving and seeing others receive our quilts and bags and many audience members found their words moving.

As we did last year, this year we also donated a quilt to the Australia Defence Force Academy (ADFA) as a thank you for having us.  I called apon Sandy (who made the quilt) and the Commandant of ADFA, BRIG Cheryl Pearce, to unveil the quilt.

Sandy did an amazing job.

The Commandant addressed the guests briefly.

We had a brief break in the proceedings and then it was time for me to deliver my speech.   You can read the entire speech here  if you wish but I basically gave a run down of what we have achieved throughout the year and some of our plans for next year. 
Before my speech I called my son up so that I could introduce him to the audience. My family has to put up with Aussie Heroes taking over the house and my time so it was good to be able to give him some recognition and I really appreciated him taking the time to come to Canberra.

We were also fortunate to be joined by two of our recent Invictus Games Competitors, Gary Wilson 

and SQNLDR and Mrs Paul McGinty

I also arranged meetings between recipients and those that had sewn for them.  I do not have usable photos of everyone but here are some.

Bev u was fortunate enough to meet two of her recipients.

Lynn finally got to meet the lovely H who she actually made two quilt tops for as the first was burnt in my home….

Sandy has masterminded a group effort to make the Colonel’s quilt and Jean had made his laundry bag.

Hugs and kisses a plenty when recipients met, in this case the Commodore greeting Gail who worked on his quilt with me.

Stephanie N (on the right) with her recipient

And last but not least….. Helen was able to meet Christine…. this is the hug of a grateful wife as Helen made the laundry bag for Christine’s husband who is still deployed….

During my speech I acknowledged Carole and Bob from the Aberdeen Care Package Cadets – if you have not heard of them you can check out their Facebook page here… they have sent masses of care packages to the troops each year…..

We were also joined by Jay, the CEO of Veterans 360 Australia, an organisation that works very hard to bring our homeless veterans in off the street.  Their Facebook page can be found here.   During the night the mess was decorated with some of the V360 quilts spread on the leather lounge chairs around the room.

Jay is pictured here with Bruce who is the President of the NSW chapter of the Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Veteran’s Association, another great quiet achiever working to support our veterans. 

After my speech I handed over to Chaplain Willis who commenced the auction. 

The first item up was a surprise item….. a huge jar of my homemade ANZAC Biscuits. 

When I met the Chief of Army at the Soldier On Ball in August the subject of my ANZACs came up and I promised to send him some.  In response he suggested that if I had some ANZACs on auction at the dinner he would bid on them.  

I am happy to say that not only did the Chief of Army make the opening bid, but he also had the winning bid, though that could have been his wife, I could not see.  Whichever one of them made the final bid I can tell you that Army Office had plenty of ANZACs for morning tea on Monday morning and I am told they went down well.

The next item to be auctioned was our beautiful Aussie Themed quilt.  The Chief of Joint Operations and his wife, Belinda, were the successful bidders for this one.  The final price  was an absolute steal with all the work in it but I think people were waiting for the next two items on the list.

After the Aussie Quilt we auctioned a ride in the Hornet Simulator at RAAF Base Williamtown.   This was also hotly contested and was eventually won by Robyn and Carol for $750.  The plan is to give it to Robyn’s son, Carol’s son-in-law.   What a lucky fellow!

Next up for Auction was the Opportunity to Commission or request a quilt 
This is something that you usually cannot buy and it was a hard won prize in the end.  To the winner go the spoils and in this case our Chief Petty Officer Cath was determinedly successful with a bid of $1000.  I am not sure if she wants to me to reveal her plans for the quilt but suffice to say she did not buy it for herself. 

Finally we came to the ANZAC themed quilt.  What a beautiful quilt!   This was another hotly contested quilt and the main bidders were Christine and the Chief of Air Force (CAF).   They were standing side by side and at a certain point CAF turned to Christine and asked her if she really wanted it…. according to Christine, the look in her eye when she said yes made it clear that she did and he let her have it for $1200.  She was certainly a very happy winner. 

The very next morning I received a photo of the quilt, already hanging in pride of place on Christine’s wall.

In addition to the live auction we also had a silent auction. 
Bidding was equally competitive for those items and I am told that some people were not game to stray too far from the table where the clip boards were in case they were outbid. 

Not the actual teddies, we got them at the last minute and I forgot to take a photo of them…..

The three miniature camouflage bears went for various prices from $135 to $260 dollars.
My friend Alison, ex-Navy, won the RAN bear. 
Rod won the RAAF bear for his ex-RAAF fiance
and the Army bear was won by one of our quilters, Deb B

We also had three laundry bags to auction. 
The Aussie laundry bag, made by Gail was won for $165 (I think) and the winning bid was for Rod, who again wanted it for his fiance.

The Laundry Bag commission was won by one of our recipients, Lammy, who has become one of our supporters. He wanted it to give to his wife. 

Finally the very hotly contested ANZAC Themed laundry bag.   

This was won but the extremely happy Chaplain Mark… he LOVES it.  He has wanted the ANZAC Themed quilt but it went passed his limit so he was doubly delighted to receive the laundry bag and the last time I spoke to him he was thinking of framing it. 

I will share more details about the beautiful Auction Quilts in separate posts.

I am quite comfortable with declaring the night a success. There were are few things that we can certainly improve on, and I am making copious amounts of notes to make sure that we do things better next year, but on the whole I have had a huge amount of feedback from both recipients and volunteers telling me how much they enjoyed the night and that is what really matters.

This is not the last post about the weekend, I just need time to write more. I need to tell you about the Auction Items, and also about the Gift Bags and I have quite a few messages from those who sew for us who have written their thoughts. I will also publish as many of the photos as I can and intend to send photos out to those that I think might like them. 
So, standby, there is more to come,  as soon as I can.

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

Jan-Maree  xx

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  1. Sue Niven

    It was indeed a Most magical night. One that will keep me going all year long, Until next time!

  2. Unknown

    I was wonderful seeing you again Jan-Maree and meeting all the amazing people involved with Aussie Heros, Veterans 360 and Aberdeen Care Packages. What a wonderful night. Thank you xo Christine (McLeod-Curran)

  3. Unknown

    Congratulations to everyone involved in the evening, making the quilts and laundry bags etc. A fabulous night was had by all

  4. Jo

    Thanks for the fantastic read. I really do hope I can join you next year


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