My nominee is Tony Huffman. A big guy in stature, but much bigger is this man's heart and the smile that is always present on his face. Our families worship together at a small Lutheran church in the also small community of Catawba, North Carolina. Tony and his wife, Amy, are avid riders and as members of the Catawba Valley Harley Owners Group (HOG) they ride in many charity events each year. They are very involved in their club and Redeemer Lutheran Church's ministry, youth and community service projects. They oversee Samaritan's Purse annual shoebox distribution and collection for our church family which produces between 50 and 100 filled boxes each year. In the summer of 2013 after attending a 3rd/8th Ivy Dragoon Vietnam Reunion with my veteran husband, Bill, I had a vision to build in our small quiet community a living garden to honor and remember our men and women who have and continue to serve and protect our country. Thanks to the involvement of the biker community and Tony Huffman's leadership this vision became reality on Veteran's Day November 11, 2016 when we dedicated the Town of Catawba Veterans Garden of Honor (VGH). What began with a $500 donation and a lot of faith and hope is now a beautiful place that provides healing to Veterans and their families. A regular at the Garden is the son of Air Force Captain Robin F. Gatwood, Jr. who was shot down in Vietnam in April 1972 and remains "Missing in Action". His infant son, Rob, is now 44 years old and has finally found a place to come and connect with his father. A place that has brought him some peace and a place to share his Dad's story and keep his memory alive. In 2014 the Catawba Town Council approved the plan, gave the land and immediately Tony Huffman was on board with ideas for hosting a successful poker run to support our financial needs. The first annual VGH Poker Run was held on May 17, 2014 and generated $2,400 toward the building of what is now the Town of Catawba Veterans Garden of Honor (VGH). With Tony's involvement and leadership in 2 1/2 years we raised the $36,000 needed to build and dedicate this living garden that our community and veterans throughout Catawba County are very proud of. Tony is already working on the route for our 4th Annual VGH Poker Run in the spring of 2017. A ride that will highlight the foothills of NC and promote safety first. A ride that will raise funds to expand the Veterans Garden to include a special area to recognize our First Responder Veterans who serve as Firemen and women, Police Officers, Emergency Service Personnel and local Rescue Squads. Without Tony's expertise and the Biker Community's support we most likely would still be in our fundraising phase instead of looking forward into expansion. You will not find Tony Huffman standing back waiting to be asked to volunteer. His hand is often the first to be raised and is eager to help anyone in need or head up a committee or fundraiser. Others are always willing to follow his lead to do whatever is needed to make the event successful. A very modest man, who asks for nothing yet gives everything.
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