By Kristina Houck
Nearly 400 people are expected to gather and raise funds for military families during the SEAL-Naval Special Warfare Family Foundation’s third annual fundraiser March 22 at the Del Mar Country Club in Rancho Santa Fe. Founded in 2008, the nonprofit organization supports Navy SEALs and their families.
“San Diego is such a military town with the Navy and Marines,” said Dominique Plewes, who is co-chairing the event with her mother, Madeleine Pickens. She noted that the cause is also personal as her father, Robert Richter, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
“We’ve always been very pro-military and want to help our military,” she said.
Although the fundraiser has always taken place at the Del Mar Country Club, which is owned by Pickens, this is the first time the mother-daughter duo is chairing the event.
“This foundation came to the Del Mar Country Club and I met a lot of the families — the wives, the children and the husbands,” said Plewes, who now serves on the foundation’s board. “I just felt very moved to see what this foundation can do to really make a difference in their lives.”
Recording artist and “American Idol” finalist Jessica Sanchez will sing the National Anthem at this year’s fundraiser. Born and raised in Chula Vista, the 18-year-old’s father is a Navy veteran and currently serves in the Navy Reserve.
“She is bringing her mom and dad to the event,” Plewes said. “I’m very excited. She has an amazing voice.”
The fundraiser will kick off with a scramble golf tournament, followed in the evening with a cocktail reception, live and silent auctions, and dinner and entertainment. Featured speakers include Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, Jr., a Navy SEAL and former deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command, as well as Michael Thornton, retired Navy SEAL and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.
“We have some amazing auction items and we have some amazing speakers,” Plewes said. “I think, overall, it will be different from last year and a lot of fun.”
Through its various fundraisers, the foundation in 2012 raised $2.2 million, including more than $500,000 for the Ty Woods and Glen Dougherty Memorial Funds.
Funds support a variety of programs and organizations, including NSWKids, a nonprofit that provides funding for educational testing and tutoring to families in the NSW community, and The Rosie Network, an online search tool that promotes businesses owned by veterans and military spouses. Plewes hopes this year’s golf and gala fundraiser will raise $1 million. Although tickets are already sold out, she encouraged people to donate online and attend the May 3 fundraiser at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica. For more information about the SEAL-NSW Family Foundation, visit www.sealnswff.org.