JEFFERSON – Hundreds of people attended a fundraising event for Sgt. Aaron Alonso, a local marine severely injured in February while on patrol in Afghanistan, at The Wearhouse Grille, Sunday.
The highlight of the afternoon came when Sgt. Alonso joined the celebration by Skyping from his hospital bed at Walter Reed Army
Medical Center, thanking the very emotional crowd for their support. Before he signed off, the local band, Tropical Storm, sang a touching version of God Bless America, which had most guests in tears.
“He’s really positive about this,” said Sgt. Alonso’s wife, Jessica, during a phone interview while sitting next to her husband’s bed. “He’s just himself,” she said of her husband who received the Purple Heart from Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps earlier this month.
“He took time to visit with us,” said Jessica about their time with the commandant. “It was not all about his injuries. It was nice.” Jessica and her mother-in-law, Debbie, also received ceremonial pins from the commandant’s wife. “That made us both cry,” said Jessica.
According to Jessica, Sgt. Alfonso “has some sort of surgery every other day” and has physical therapy in between. On weekends, she said, “we try to relax.”
“Every day he gets better. What’s nice is that we are spending a lot of time together,” she said.
The event at The Wearhouse Grille came together thanks to the efforts of Alonso family friend Gary Gamble and Regina Makowski, owner of The Wearhouse Grille. Gamble had the idea of bringing together local musicians to help raise money for the Alonsos but needed a venue. Makowski offered the restaurant and her employees all decided to donate back their wages. The bands and musicians also donated their time and talents.
“I never had a doubt the community would come together,” said Aaron’s father Dave. “This is fantastic what they’ve done for Aaron, Jessica and Riley (the Alonso’s 6-month-old daughter),” he said while greeting people at the door of The Wearhouse Grille.
Makowski will donate 25 percent of the revenue earned Sunday. A silent auction with items donated by local businesses and residents and organized by Jefferson resident Esther Poulsen brought in $3,000. Other money was raised through a wristband sale and the sale of Alonso Strong tee shirts, which were anonymously donated to insure total profit on each shirt.
The Aaron Alonso Committee, a local group formed to organize future fundraising events, will meet Tuesday, March 25 in the council chamber of the municipal building. All are welcome.
There are four events scheduled for April. On Thursday, April 10, Wendy’s restaurant on Rt. 15 will donate 15 percent of all sales between 5pm and 8pm. On Saturday, April 12, CrossFit JTown will host “Work Out of the Day” events every 45 minutes from 9am until 12pm.
Also on Saturday, April 12, American Legion Post 245 of Lake Hopatcong will host a spaghetti dinner fundraiser.
The American Legion will also hold a vendor sale on Sunday, April 13, with proceeds going to the Alonso family.