Annual Christmas Day visit gives a bleep about veterans | ParkRecord.com

Annual Christmas Day visit gives a bleep about veterans

Many nonprofit organizations rely on donations to help fulfill their missions. Some help with cancer research. Others help with providing food and clothing to those in need.

Giving a Bleep, a local nonprofit that presents and annual musical and donates the money from ticket sales to other nonprofits in the greater Park City area, started another donation tradition six years ago – "Give Your Heart, Not Your Wallet."

Those who donate to Give Your Heart Not Your Wallet need only donate their time on Christmas day and visit the residents at the William E. Christofferson Salt Lake Veterans Home, said Executive Director Annette Velarde.

The tradition is something her family enjoys.

“While I love our annual musical, I think we are able to give more to people through this particular event...”Annette Velarde, Giving a Bleep executive director

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"This has become Christmas for my family," she said. "I wanted to create a family tradition other than overeating and playing with an electronic device all afternoon."

Her son Ruli has also gotten into the spirit.

"When we started, I had to drag my son along, but now, he wants to come," Velarde laughed. "He puts playlists together and compiles music from the different war eras. So he plays music from the 1940s for those who served during World War II. For the Vietnam veterans, he plays music from the 1960s and 1970s, and so forth."

Velarde has seen the veterans' responses to the music.

"We used to sing Christmas carols to those vets, and that would be fun because everyone knows the music, but when Ruli puts the headphones on these veterans, you can see them tapping their toes or moving their hands," she said. "And the way they look at Ruli is awe inspiring."

Giving a Bleep is about giving people who aren't mega wealthy a chance to practice philanthropy, Velarde said.

"There are a lot of people in our community who are literally just getting by," she explained. "So we wanted to provide an opportunity for people to give without having to donate anything more than their time."

The visits run from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., but people can show up when they can.

"The event isn't like a regular function where you have to be in one place at a certain time to hear a speech," Velarde said. "The staff will expect people from Park City all day, so even if people arrive at the hospital after we've already gone, they can still spend time with the veterans. We just won't be there."

The William E. Christofferson Salt Lake Veterans Home houses 80 to 85 full-time residents and out of those, 50 or 60 are left there on Christmas day because they are too unhealthy to be checked out, Velarde said.

Those who participate in Give Your Heart, Not Your Wallet usually spend time talking with the veterans, listening to their stories or watching TV with them, according to Velarde.

"People can just show up and enjoy themselves for as long as they want," she said. "We do this for no reason other than to hang out with people who don't have anyone who will visit them."

The only thing Velarde asks from people who want to attend is for them to register at http://www.givingableep.com.

"The registration is free, but it's a way we'll get an idea of how many people to expect," she said. "When people register, they give us their email, so I can give them updates regarding road and weather conditions."

People can meet up with the group different ways. They can meet up with Velarde and her husband Ricardo at Jeremy Ranch at 10:30 a.m. to carpool or convoy down. Or they can meet at the hospital at 11 a.m.

"If they do that, all they need to do is tell the front desk their with the Park City group," Velarde said.

One of the new developments this year is the Adopt-a-Grandpa program.

"The home has a list of residents who don't get visitors on Christmas, so if people from our group feel more comfortable spending time with just one person, they can select someone on the list," Velarde said.

Gifts for the veterans are welcome.

"The administration at the nursing home has a great attitude, because they know their residents have served and lived through wars," Velarde said. "So there aren't many rules on what how much sugar we can give them."

Velarde said while there have been many vets who have passed on, she is very happy to see familiar faces year after year.

"We are surprised to see some of the same vets year after year, because they are all getting old," she said.

Velarde feels those who visit the nursing home get more out of the visit than the veterans.

"While I love our annual musical, I think we are able to give more to people through this particular event," she said. "We are giving something that is far more valuable than cash."

For more information about Giving a Bleep's Give Your Heart, Not Your Wallet program, visit http://www.givingableep.com.