By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – When David and Melynda Veron, owners of The Veron Company landscaping business, took their son, Cooper, 6, to Marlborough's Allora Ristorante for dinner early this fall, the kindergartener had a bright idea.
For Cooper, the idea was a simple. “I think it would be great to “Light Up Allora” and somehow involve children,” he said.
“Allora happens to be our all-time favorite family restaurant and holiday lighting is one of the many things we do at The Veron Company,” said Melynda, who took the idea to heart and began brainstorming ways to incorporate holiday lights and Allora into a charity involving children.
The Verons set up a meeting with Joe Ferro and Laura Palmer, owners of Allora, and asked if they would be interested in doing an event for the holidays to benefit a children's charity.
“They were thrilled with the idea,” said Melynda. “And, being that they are experts in entertaining and providing gourmet meals, we knew we were on the right track.”
With Allora on board and The Veron Company donating all the holiday lighting, all that was left was finding a children's charity to support.
“Our friend Richard Tomanek, general manager at Embassy Suites, Marlborough, suggested that we consider Operation Tribute and put us in touch with the organization's founder and chairperson, Marc Badeau,” said Melynda.
After meeting with Badeau, the Verons decided that Operation Tribute was the perfect charity for the “Light Up Allora” event.
Operation Tribute is a nonprofit organization that acknowledges the sacrifices being made by the children of all military families living in New England, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania,?including the Coast Guard, National Guard, Reserves, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.?The donations raised by this event will help provide age-appropriate books and gifts during the holiday season to children of active-duty men and women living in the Marlborough area.
“We all were so touched by the mission and vision of Operation Tribute,” Melynda explained. “I believe that these children are the “unsung heroes.” To be able to make the children smile that much bigger on Christmas Day and remind them that we are incredibly lucky to have their parents protecting all of us, is to me the magic of Christmas. It's like wrapping up the biggest hugs we can and sending them around the world – united together, caring for those who are taking care of all of us.”
“Recognizing the children of military families?by acknowledging the extraordinary sacrifices that they make every day is the very least that we, as Americans, can do to support our troops and their families.?The soldiers are the true heroes, but the children of military families are the silent heroes that need to be thanked for their service to our country,” Badeau added.
In 2012, over 35,000 gifts were distributed to the children of military families.
The fundraising event will include gourmet appetizers, music provided by acoustic duo Hot Acoustics, and a silent auction with items donated by local businesses. Additionally, there will be a countdown to “light up” the holiday lights at Allora and kick off the holiday season.
Light Up Allora will take place at Allora Ristorante, 139 Lakeside Ave., Thursday, Nov. 21, starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased by calling 508-485-4300.
For any children or classrooms wanting to show support for local children of military families, letters can be written to the Operation Tribute children and will be included with the gifts. Letter writers are asked to include their age so the letters can be paired up with a similar-aged child recipient. Send letters to: Operation Tribute, PO Box 699, Gorham, Maine, 04038.
To learn more about Operation Tribute, visit operationtribute.com.