[Actor Gary Sinise with Taylor Morris, an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Tech who lost all four limbs while leading a team in Afghanistan]

In the patriotic spirit of the 4th of July, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to recap a very special event we recently attended, and share a brief conversation we had with actor and activist, Gary Sinise

On June 15th The Gary Sinise Foundation, along with sponsors Michigan Avenue Magazine, Josh Cellars, Reyes Holdings and Moet Hennessey USA hosted an “Inspiration to Action” dinner at Chicago’s famous Montgomery Club by Gibsons.

The Gary Sinise Foundation serves the nation by honoring its defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.  In 2011, the Gary Sinise Foundation proudly partnered with Tunnel to Towers Foundation to create Building for America’s Bravest, a program designed to construct custom Smart Homes for our nation’s most severely wounded veterans. Each house features fully-automated amenities to ease their unimaginable life changes and help restore their independence. Twenty-five Smart Homes will have broken ground or completed construction by the end of 2013, each for a wounded warrior and their family.

[Left, Gary Sinise.  Right, Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis]

For the past decade, Gary Sinise (best known for his roles in Forest Gump and CSI) & the Lt. Dan Band have brought live shows to our nation’s service members and their families. With the help of the band’s official sponsor, American Airlines, the Lt. Dan Band travels to cities and military bases around the world playing benefit concerts and boosting the morale of our military and first responders. On Thursday, June 13th, the band took center stage at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park and delighted concert goers of all ages.

The private dinner held on June 15th featured a live performance by Katharine McPhee, American Idol contestant and star of  NBC’s “Smash”, as well as appearances by comedian Tom Dreesen, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis and, of course, founder Gary Sinise. The evening also include a VIP cocktail reception and a unique “Raise Your Paddle” pledge for Taylor Morris, who attended with his beautiful wife, an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Tech who lost all four limbs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while leading a team in Afghanistan.

[Tom Dreesen, Katharine McPhee, and Gary Sinise]

As if you can’t tell by reading about all of his work and efforts, Gary Sinise has to be one of the nicest, most sincere men in Hollywood! So it came as no surprise… wait, strike that… it’s still always a surprise when a celebrity agrees to talk to us!  But needless to say we were ecstatic when Gary took the time to chat with Amelia about his work with the veterans and his favorite spots when he returns home to Chicago.

What can you tell us about The Gary Sinise Foundation?

The foundation is very new, it’s only 2 years old, but it’s become an extension of an outgrowth of a lot of military support work I’ve done over decades.   It became very clear at some point that after having supported so many other military charities out there that it was kind of time to start my own, bring in additional funds to be able to help our work on behalf of the military men and women and do a lot of good things, and tonight’s going to support that!

[Gary Sinise posing with his parents.]

What does it mean to be hosting this event tonight in your hometown of Chicago?

This is the first fundraiser we’ve done for the foundation here in Chicago, like I said the foundation is pretty new, we’re just starting to do fundraisers all around the country to raise money.  We’ve got a lot of great programs.  I’ve got a lot of good friends here tonight, I played at Ravinia on Thursday night, so they said stick around for a few days and we’ll do a fundraiser. That’s why we’re here.

What are the first things you do upon returning to the Windy City?

I always go to Gibson’s when I’m here, it’s a favorite place of mine.  I’ve got great friends over there.  But also, I’m very active with Steppenwolf [Theater] so I do a lot of things there.  Wrigley Field, of course!  And now we’ve got the Blackhawks playing, so it’s really a good time to be in Chicago.


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