It was Powerball meets Oprahs Favorite Things Saturday at the annual Holiday Show at Joint Base Lewis-McChords Carey Theater. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service presented a two-hour performance by the SeaGals and Blue Thunder, the cheerleader show team and drumline for the Seattle Seahawks, as well as massive giveaways for attendees.
Patrick McGhee, AAFES general manager, and his team of elves began preparing for the event in September. He said the biggest challenge was getting sponsors for the giveaway prizes some 40 iPads, 10 Mini iPads, 25 Kindle Fires, 40 bicycles and more than 10 flat-screen televisions.
We have great sponsors, McGhee said. About 950 people came, with 212 being kids, and everyone received a $10 gift card. Thats a lot of money just for that. They all got bags full of stuff before they even walked in the door.
I even had sponsors calling today to see if they could give some stuff (for the show). It was great, he said. McGhee said his primary goal was to have the service members and their families attending the show know the Exchange was more than just a store.
A lot of businesses say they support the troops, but do they walk the walk? he asked. Last year we gave $6.2 million to JBLM Morale, Welfare and Recreation. I havent seen another store do that.
AAFES made a point to demonstrate its commitment to the military families in attendance. Krystal Veal spent the evening with her newly redeployed husband, Sgt. Harold Veal, and their two children.
This is a very family oriented event, she said. Its great to come, to see the (SeaGals) team, to get free items ... its just great.
The Veals will be staying at JBLM this Christmas, and they said they were thankful for the opportunity to have something fun to do on a Saturday night.
SeaGals performer Shelly Son echoed the same sentiment.
We know a lot of (the audience) wont get to spend the holidays with their family, so we want to bring holiday cheer to them, Son said.
The Holiday Show is Sons favorite event of the year. I love performing for these families and I love this crowd. Its so much fun, she said.
This is the seventh year the SeaGals have performed. SeaGal Director Sherri Thompson said she especially enjoys seeing the crowd interact with the dancers.
We get to teach the kids in the morning and they get to perform for the crowd during the show, Thompson said. Its a real community feel and we love it.
But it was the first giveaway recipient of the evening that struck the biggest chord with McGhee and several SeaGals, and really showed the heart of the event.
We had this girl on stage and we asked her what she wanted. She said she just wanted her daddy and started to cry, McGhee said. She said she Skypes with her dad and we asked her what she Skypes with. She pulled out this little, old phone. Thats just no good, so we gave her an iPad. She just cried, and so did some of the SeaGals.
Im tearing up just thinking about it. Thats what this event is about.