Lanier businessman holds fundraiser for fallen heroes’ families

By Alan Hope

For many Americans the date August 6, 2011 might not bring to mind anything of significance.

Not so for the Naval Special Warfare community. Thirty eight members of the military were lost after their Chinook helicopter was brought down by enemy fire in Afghanistan. Among them were 22 members of the NSW, including 17 Navy SEALs.

Fast forward to Feb. 18, 2012. Businessman Steve Pescitelli, owner of SS Airsoft in Buford, teamed up with NSW supporters to hold a fundraiser for survivors of that tragedy.

A family from Mooresville, NC helped spearhead the fundraiser. “We were heartbroken,” said Suzanne Vogel. Her family – part of the NSW community – had moved from Virginia Beach, VA to Mooresville shortly before the attack. Her husband, Steve, had just retired after 20 years of service and Suzanne has another family member involved with the SEALs.

Following the tragedy “We weren’t there to do the things we needed to do (to help out those who lost loved ones),” she said.

So she sat down with her two youngest children, Hunter and Alexandra, and “we were working with art and just came up with ideas about patriotism. And about what these men did. How they sacrificed so we can enjoy (living in freedom).

The kids artwork led to stickers that referenced the SEALs. They pooled their money from piggy banks and came up with $189, had stickers printed with their artwork, and headed out to a nearby grocery store. Ninety minutes later they were out of stickers and had raised funds for the Navy SEAL Foundation.

“We gave the stickers away, from our hearts, and they gave from theirs,” Suzanne recalled.

The family had more stickers printed and the effort grew, gaining regional and even national news coverage. The family is focusing their donations to help establish a pediatric mental health center in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area to help surviving children.

Hunter said he was happy with how others have responded to the family project, adding his favorite part so far was having NASCAR driver Josh Richards attach the stickers on his car. “We just want others to help out,” he said.

And that’s where Pescitelli comes into the picture. Pescitelli is known around Lake Lanier as owner of Xtreme Heaters which makes heaters for boat engine compartments.

“I just wanted to do something to say ‘Thank you’ to these guys for all they do,” Pescitelli said.

He did just that by raising almost $2,000 for the effort.

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