Since the inception of the Barbecue for the Troops program in 2013, the area's new-car dealers with the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, or CATA, have raised nearly $900,000, with that money going toward support of USO of Illinois initiatives.
The program has initiated more than 600 fundraisers over the course of seven years, and with those funds, USO of Illinois has been able to support more than 326,000 service members and their families each year.
CATA — the Chicago-area’s new-car dealer association — and USO of Illinois recently hosted Barbecue for the Troops fundraisers for the seventh consecutive year. This summer, 115 local dealerships hosted the events, firing up their grills and leading patriotic ceremonies and classic car shows, as well as games for children along with music and barbecues.
At this summer’s event, CATA said the dealerships rallied their communities to bring in more than $146,500 for local military and their families.
CATA and USO of Illinois also ran a #BBQ4Troops social media contest. For that event, the groups accepted nominations of individuals worthy of winning the Ultimate Backyard Barbecue. Throughout July, wives and husbands nominated their partners who served overseas, parents nominated their active-duty military children, and others nominated friends and neighbors.
The groups chose Javier Castrellon, nominated by his wife, Maria. She wrote in her submission that her husband exemplifies what a soldier should be: “always dedicated to his work but never overshadowing the love he has for his family.”
She added that her husband Javier always supports and encourages his three children, even after long days at work. He spends time with them at events such as soccer tournaments and daddy-daughter dances.
Maria Castrellon also said of her husband, “For more than 20 years, he's lived this military life moving from one place to another without any regrets.”
This summer, the Castrellons’ Ultimate Backyard Barbecue event will include 50 family members and friends who will enjoy a visit by Chicago Blackhawks Ambassador Chris Chelios while feasting on barbecue fare from Real Urban Barbecue.
To celebrate this year’s program, CATA board members and the USO of Illinois presented their check for $146,500 at Clark After Dark last week. The USO’s annual summer street festival fundraiser, Clark After Dark, also known as “Summer’s Last Hoo-ah!” takes place in Chicago’s River North district.
“The money that's raised here, stays here,” CATA chairman Bill Haggerty said in a news release. “CATA dealerships are committed to giving back to their communities, and the USO Barbecue for the Troops initiative is one great example of dealers helping people in need — right in our own backyards.”
Next year’s USO Barbecue for the Troops fundraising events are set to take place at local new-car dealerships on July 18, 2020.