4 Standing Ovations at 4th Tribute to Military Families

June 1, 2017

Last Wednesday evening, United Through Reading (UTR) hosted our 4th Annual Tribute to Military Families in Washington, D.C., and it was a tremendous success; our best yet! Nearly 300 guests — including more than 25 flag and general officers and senior enlisted leaders — gathered together to celebrate our military families and gave four different standing ovations to speakers and honorees that shared the magic of what happens when our military families are reading together.

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, with the Boblett Family on stage at the Tribute to Military Families.

The 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, offered remarks and introduced our Keynote Speaker, 13-year-old Ryan Boblett, whose father had been deployed for one-quarter of his young life, missing many holidays, birthdays, and milestones. We celebrated his Christmas wish fulfilled when he relayed his family’s joy ripping open a familiar package revealing a UTR video from Dad on Christmas Day — healing the pain of three Christmases in a row without Dad. We also heard from Colonel Eries Mentzer, USAF, and her husband Eddy Mentzer who spoke about how UTR has impacted their family. Eddy had the room laughing as he shared how helpful the videos were to him as the at-home spouse, renaming the organization “Taking a Shower Through Reading” or “Cooking Through Reading.”

Mrs. Taya Kyle accepted recognition for the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation which Taya founded to honor the life and legacy of service of her husband “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, and we honored Representative Steve Womack (AR-3) for his 30 years of service in the Arkansas Army National Guard and his passionate advocacy of UTR.

We also got a glimpse into the magic and the connection that happens when Emmy Award-winning anchor and the Tribute’s Mistress of Ceremonies, Alison Starling; Representative Womack; and General Robert Neller, melded into the role of storyteller for their children and grandchildren — through their very own UTR videos.

UTR CEO Sally Ann Zoll, Ed.D; UTR Board Chair Jeff Mader; Mrs. Taya Kyle; and the Mentzer family honoring the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation at the 2017 Tribute to Military Families.

We had the honor of sharing through video the story of fallen Navy Lieutenant Florence Choe and the priceless gift she left for her daughter, Kristin, through her UTR recordings — a story featured in the March issue of Reader’s Digest magazine. “Flo’s” passion for the organization was just one of the motivators for Reader’s Digest Foundation to join UTR’s mission with a pledge of $500,000 over two years as the Founding Sponsor for our upcoming 40 Million Stories campaign. During the evening, Bonnie Kintzer, Director and Chairman of Reader’s Digest Foundation and President and CEO of Trusted Media Brands, Inc., announced Reader’s Digest Foundation’s truly transformational grant that will begin to move the needle in our drive to ensure that all children with a deployed family member have access to UTR. Stay tuned for more on the 40 Million Stories campaign in the coming weeks and visit 40MillionStories.org for more information. As we celebrated the kickoff of the campaign and another successful year at UTR, we did so with great anticipation for the military families we will be able to serve and with sincere gratitude to the supporters who enable us to bring these strong military families together through the magic of storytime.

UTR CEO Sally Ann Zoll, Ed.D, and Bonnie Kintzer, Director and Chairman of Reader’s Digest Foundation and President and CEO of Trusted Media Brand, Inc., share a hug on stage at Tribute to Military Families.

We’d like to offer an enormous thank you to fourth time presenting sponsor BAE Systems for their support of this year’s Tribute to Military Families. We couldn’t do this great work for our military families without such dedicated and passionate sponsors. Additional event sponsors included Cobham; Association of the United States Army; Booz Allen Hamilton; Cisco Systems; General Electric; PenFed Credit Union; Tutor.com; United Concordia Dental; Walmart; ADI; General Dynamics IT; RBH Global Wealth Partners; Boston Properties; Covington & Burling LLP DynCorp International; Mr. and Mrs. Dwayne Junker; Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Mader; Marriott International; Oshkosh Defense; NorthPoint Strategies; Rheem Manufacturing Co.; Mr. and Mrs. Brian Roehrkasse; Mr. and Mrs. Doug Stewart; Strategic Visions Consulting Group; and Mr. and Mrs. Roger Zakheim. A final thank you to the Tribute’s Campaign Committee co-chaired by Doug Stewart and Brian Roherkasse, the Host Committee chaired by Mrs. Ellyn Dunford, and program participants for all of their hard work to make this event a reality. For all that you do and the many ways you support, thank you!

If you are not already, consider being a part of the team that brings storytime home for military families. Visit unitedthroughreading.org to donate or volunteer today.