The details would come later, but the idea to have the Atlantic Health Jets Women's Organization host 18 military families for a December holiday party actually originated in the summer. Julianne Folk, wife of Jets K Nick Folk and mother of three, thought of the daily hardships a military family faces after missing her husband during training camp.
"My husband's gone for five weeks and it's tough," she said. "But I can't really complain because I look at all these moms and wives out here of people who are married to active people in the military and they go months at a time. For me – five weeks in the scheme of things is nothing. I'm worn out at the end of five weeks, so I can only imagine what they're going through. They are the ones who deserve to get pampered and get a break."
Wanting to provide that break for military wives/spouses, Julianne went to Betty Maccagnan and the wife of Jets GM Mike Maccagnan helped get the party plans in motion.
"This is really personal for Mike and I because we have military members in our family," said Betty Maccagnan. "His brother, Vic, is a retired army colonel. They went through this for 28 years and actually they're the folks we consulted with on what do here today, so a lot of this is at their request or their recommendation."
There was seemingly something for everyone Friday as the AHJWO got off to an early start this giving season. After the large military group watched the Jets practice, they came inside and there were holiday goodies for everyone. While the kids had fun, many wives took advantage of a rare opportunity for relaxation.
Partnering with the USO, the Atlantic Health Jets Women's Organization Hosted a Holiday Event for 18 Military Families at the Team's Facility
"We gave the families a tour of the facility led by our general manager Mike Maccagnan," said Jets community relations director Jesse Linder. "We brought them up and there were some fun activities for the kids - gingerbread house decorating, cookie decorating and assembling some care packages. After that, we brought all the kids down to our JetsFest, but what we wanted to do was make sure we did something special for the spouses too. So we actually had a pampering room downstairs – hair, makeup, nails, blowout, a massage therapist – just to give them a little break from their everyday life."
Alex Figueroa, who signed up for the Navy Reserve after 12 years of active duty, was one of the Jets' guests. Figueroa, whose wife is currently on active duty in the Navy, has spent plenty of holidays away from home and has been on the receiving end of care packages.
"It means the world to you because you know people are thinking about you and what you do matters," he said.
Mike Maccagnan, whose father Victor Sr. also served in the military, recalls the times when his brother served abroad and understands the stress it can put on family.
"I know when he was deployed abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan, I know for him it was a big thing," he said. " It's a lot more pressure on the family because the spouse is not around. I just remember all the times seeing what he went through with his family. If we can do a little something to make somebody else's family experience a little easier like they're putting care packages together for the spouses that are abroad, hopefully this does something nice for them."
Sarah Fox Tracy, who serves as director of corporate alliances at USO of Metropolitan New York, was thrilled when the AHJWO initially reached out with the holiday idea.
"We flipped out. We knew our families would flip out," said Ms. Tracy. "A lot of the kids in this room, their parents are deployed at the moment so the holidays can be kind of stressful and a little bit sad. To bring everyone in with the Jets and have them spend an entire day pampering the moms and giving gifts to the kids – it's beyond our wildest dreams. We're thrilled."
Nothing is complete when loved ones are away from home and military families know the meaning of sacrifice every day of the year. For maybe a few hours Friday, they were able to celebrate and relax while the AHJWO expressed a collective thanks.
"I hope the impact is great. I've talked to a lot of the wives today and a lot of their husbands are on hardship tours," said Betty Maccagnan. "Those are at least 12 months long and actually one of the ladies I just spoke to – her husband was supposed to come home this week and he just got extended until February and the kids don't even know yet. So hopefully this will soften the blow – that's what we want. We just want to add a little bit of comfort to their holidays."