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Final Barbecue for the Troops tally tops $50,000

November 13, 2020
The Chicago Automobile Trade Association on Nov. 10 announced a final amount raised by this year’s Barbecue for the Troops campaign. After wrapping month-long fundraising campaigns in October, the area’s new-car dealerships delivered $53,801 to the USO of Illinois.
The new-car dealers' USO Barbecue for the Troops initiative traditionally is held each July and features large community festivals with patriotic ceremonies. However, this year, the CATA and the USO of Illinois made the collective decision to reschedule 2020's fundraising campaign to October due to the pandemic. Still, nearly 60 CATA dealerships rallied around the cause that directly impacts local service members. Since the program's inception in 2013, the area's new-car dealers have brought in more than $950,000 to support USO of Illinois initiatives with more than 630 unique fundraisers taking place. The funds enable the USO of Illinois to lend support to more than 350,000 service members and their families on an annual basis. 
"While this year is certainly unique, not even a global pandemic could stand in the way of local new-car dealers' drive to give back to those in need, right within their local communities," said CATA Chairman Kevin Keefe. "Furthermore, we found that people really rallied around the cause because it directly impacts local military who have been serving on the home front in the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as around the world."
USO of Illinois Executive Director Christopher Schmidt said: "We are truly grateful for the support we have received from our partners at the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, the local new-car dealerships and our hometown communities. For the eighth consecutive year, the CATA dealers have rallied to help raise funds for our local service members and their families. Our sincere thanks to everyone who stepped up to support the USO of Illinois and those that we serve, especially during these unprecedented times."   
Awareness was also spread through social media through the #BBQ4Troops Ultimate At-Home Barbecue contest. The CATA and USO of Illinois encouraged fans to nominate someone deserving of the grand prize, a $150 Real Urban Barbecue catered meal, at-home grilling essentials and a signed hockey puck by hometown hero Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane. 
The social media contest winners, Joy and Dan Symonds, are a husband and wife team who founded Operation LOVE (acronym for "Love Our Veterans Elgin") Our Veterans, based out of Elgin. The mission of Operation LOVE is to honor "unclaimed" veterans at their funerals, connect volunteers with Elgin-area veterans in need and strengthen existing local veterans' service organizations by promoting their events, volunteer opportunities and fundraisers. 
"We are so thankful to the local dealerships and the USO of Illinois for this great recognition of Operation LOVE," said Joy Symonds. "We're blessed to have a strong community committed to serving and honoring our country's true heroes, our veterans."