By Babette Maxwell
As the president of the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Award® program, I was one of the lucky people who was in on Oprah's big "Favorite Things" surprise this year -- because the group that received Oprah's Favorite Things was comprised of Military Spouse of the Year® finalists.
I found watching the show play out in an “undisclosed location” one of the most perfect moments in military spouse history. I’ve known these 30 spouses for several years and their stories continue to resonate with me. I'm fortunate to be exposed to some of the most amazing stories of everyday military spouses making a difference. The 30 finalists invited to this show had been chosen by their peers of 1.1 million military spouses worldwide to represent the entire community.
For me personally, the show is a way for the rest of America to see what I see every day: people who unselfishly give of themselves. And just when these spouses think they simply have no more to give, they dig a little deeper. As these deserving spouses were being given to, there was no doubt in my mind that they would soon reciprocate somehow, each in her own way. So it was no shock to me to learn recently that many have already made plans to provide for others. For example:
Eli Arroyo-Allen, a breast cancer survivor and advocate, is setting aside some of her Favorite Things gifts for an auction she intends to hold in the spring to help raise money for breast cancer awareness.
Cat Woyee-Jones intends to give her new Tempur-Pedic Cloud Supreme mattress to a fellow army family stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia, who lost everything they owned in a house fire.
Kristy Spurgeon is using her Microsoft Surface to help Wounded Warriors process their claims and stop home foreclosures. Her Tempur-Pedic Cloud Supreme mattress will allow her husband, a wounded warrior, to sleep more than two hours a night without being turned.
Erin Whitehead is placing some of her items under “Brendan’s Christmas Tree,” a tree decorated in honor of her nephew Brendan Scott Coates, who lost his battle with brain cancer at the age of five. Before Christmas, all the items under the tree will be donated to a local Ronald McDonald House charity so that families staying there may have a holiday.
Ingrid Herrera-Yee is donating her Jetson E-Bike to Active Heroes to help military families displaced by Hurricane Sandy.
Stephanie Geraghty’s organization, Stroller Warriors, is hosting a viewing party at the local USO in Jacksonville, North Carolina, to help raise money and receive donations for the USO’s annual Thanksgiving Day dinner, which feeds more than 2,000 people and delivers over 500 meals.
During the taping, Oprah revealed that last year, first lady Michelle Obama inspired her to anonymously send gifts to 20 military families in California and Illinois. The 30 military spouses who received Oprah's Favorite Things this year came up with their own secret program, The 30 Bows of Giving (30BoG). Starting December 1, each spouse will anonymously send gifts to other military spouses around the world, along with a personal message and instructions that they must do the same for another military spouse -- anonymously.
So, you see, the thrill of giving… well, it's contagious. And it lasts a lifetime.
Babette Maxwell is the founder of Military Spouse magazine and of the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Award® program. With the 2012 launch of baseguide.com, Military Spouse has also created the only social network exclusively for the military spouse community.
Be sure to watch the premiere of "Oprah's Favorite Things 2012" on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. ET on OWN for your chance to win them! Special messages will appear throughout the show telling you how to enter for a chance to win. Go to oprah.com/favoritethings for more details.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (incl. D.C.) and Canada (excl. QC) who are OWN channel subscribers prior to 11/10/12, AT LEAST 18 years old or the age of majority in the subscriber's state, province or territory of residence. Ends 11/18/12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Click here for the official rules, including odds and prize descriptions. Void in Quebec and where prohibited. If Canadian resident, mathematical skill-testing question must be correctly answered to win. Six (6) prizes (approximate retail values from $1,353 USD to $12,039.30 USD) available to be won.