Bloomfield Hills resident Sam Simon, chairman of Simon Group Holdings, has organized the annual Christmas outing for the past 10 years.
“It gives us great joy to host this family Christmas celebration for our military," said Simon, who hosts the annual event with his wife Nada. "It’s the least we can do to show these courageous and selfless men and women how much we appreciate our freedom and their service ... we have the best trained and smartest military in the world and we can’t take them for granted.”
Brig. Gen. John Slocum added, “We always look forward to this celebration. It’s an opportunity for the great men and women who tirelessly sacrifice so much to get an opportunity to pause for a moment and enjoy great company, music, food and generous recognition.”
The first holiday party was held in 2006. Simon was having lunch with a pair of retired Navy SEALs when he learned about 200 U.S. Marines being deployed from Selfridge three weeks before Christmas. The base wanted to give the Marines a holiday sendoff, but it wasn't in the budget.
Simon and his wife quickly organized a party for the base. They've held one every year since, providing a little cheer for hundreds of military personnel on duty during the holidays.
“Christmas is about time with family and friends and it’s especially about the children." he said. "We’re so happy we can bring military families together for a few hours each December to have fun with each other and to express our gratitude."
In addition to the festivities, toys were collected for the Marine Toys for Tots program. Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Pineda oversees the southeast Michigan program and, in 2015, the Marines distributed 120,000 toys to 30,000 local children, with help from generous sponsors and the community.