116 ;e Costco Connection NOVEMBER 2016
before the matchup, and he
could easily have occupied
that seat. Instead, the entire
color guard was ushered
o; the ;eld a;er their performance and never got to
see the game.
“A;er that I wanted to
create an organization
where people could get a
tax write-o; for donating
tickets to our military per-
sonnel,” says Focareto, a
disabled vet who served in
the U.S. Navy during the
Gulf War. “I knew other
organizations and businesses gave tickets to
veterans as a side project, but I wanted to
have a nonpro;t that focused exclusively on
providing veterans and military families
A couple of months a;er that 2008 Super
FOURTEEN YEARS AGO, when Costco
member Ryan J. Orr of Rancho Cucamonga,
California, heard servicemen and service-
women were being sent to Iraq, he made it his
mission to thank them.
“A lot of people, including myself, were
moved to do something as a result of 9/11,”
Orr says about the idea behind Operation
Community Cares (operationcommunity
cares.org), an organization that supports
military personnel by sending care packages
to them in remote locations where they are
stationed, such as Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan
In 2002, Orr teamed up with the Veterans
of Foreign Wars Post 8680 Women’s Auxiliary
to start the organization. “This is an opportunity for us all to come together as a community to do something,” he explains.
The organization, which started with
approximately 15 people, now has a board of
20 people who coordinate with hundreds of
volunteers for packing dates scheduled
before Christmas and the Fourth of July.
Care packages are filled with donated snacks
and toiletries and sealed with encouraging
letters of thanks from the volunteers.
“Imagine being away from your family
for six to 12 months at a time in a very hostile
environment, so when these guys and gals get
these things, their morale is completely
boosted,” Orr says.
Collection sites for donations are located
at businesses in Southern California.
(Operation Community Cares is accepting
Ryan J. Orr at a
packing day event
to prepare care
packages for troops.
Tickets for troops Bowl, Vet Tix (
vettix.org) became a reality. Since then, more than 440,000 active military and veterans have become eligible to receive free tickets. ;ey can ask to attend big-name
concerts; watch college football games, Major
League Baseball games and NASCAR races;
or go to events like Comic-Con.
One of the bene;ciaries of the program,
Joel DeLand, a six-year Army veteran who
served in Afghanistan and Iraq, has attended
a number of Chicago Cubs baseball games
and a few concerts. Many veterans face ;nan-cial challenges when making the transition
from the military to civilian life, he says.
Because of that, events that interest them are
cost-prohibitive. Returning home from overseas con;icts, he says, also can lead to antisocial behavior and depression. Vet Tix provides
an antidote to these negatives.
“Vet Tix encourages the recipient to go
out and be social,” says DeLand. “and not iso-
late themselves from others.”
Focareto says all branches of the military
are eligible for these tickets, including the
National Guard and reservists, veterans of all
eras and families of someone who was killed
in action.—Heather Larson
donations until November 17, 2016, for their
packing date on November 19, 2016.)
Orr says military personnel are always so
appreciative to receive something that
reminds them of home, such as hot sauce to
put on their military food rations, or something they need, such as baby wipes they can
use when they don’t have access to showers.
“We’re trying to send four to five boxes or
more to each person we’re sending to so that
they can play Santa Claus with the folks who
are not receiving them currently,” he adds.
WHEN MIKE FOCARETO went to the 2008
Super Bowl in Phoenix, the seat next to him
stayed empty during the entire football game.
;is didn’t sit well with Focareto, a Costco
member in Arizona. A military friend of his
had performed as part of the color guard
Michael Focareto (right) and
WWII veteran Gilbert Orrantia
attending a baseball game.