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Eckrich has teamed with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Operation Homefront to honor an Oswego, N.Y., military family, hosting a special presentation featuring Syracuse University basketball legend John Wallace.
Through the presentation, given to the Helton family outside a Walmart in Rome, N.Y., Wallace surprised the family with a gift of free groceries for one year at Walmart, courtesy of Eckrich. Crowds of shoppers enjoyed samples of Eckrich smoked sausage and deli meat, live country music and an appearance by Utica County radio station Big Frog 104. Additionally, Eckrich provide local military service members and their families with $25 Walmart gift cards to thank them for their service. Since launching its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment in 2013, Walmart has hired more than 130,000 U.S. veteran associates and promoted 15,000-plus associates who are military veterans.
"Seeing the smiles on their faces today was incredible," said Wallace, who led Syracuse to a 1996 NCAA Championship game and played seven seasons in the NBA. "The hope that Eckrich is giving to this family and this community is amazing, and I'm proud to be a part of it."
Jeremy Helton served as a specialist in the US Army for more than six years. He earned numerous medals and awards for his service and time in combat. His wife, Sarah, is his caregiver and a member of Operation Homefront's Hearts of Valor program, a network of nearly 3,000 caregivers for wounded, ill or injured service members. The family has two children.
"We'd be lost without companies like Eckrich and organizations like Operation Homefront," said Sarah Helton. "They get us involved with other military families, and this gift will help us so much."
The surprise is part of the ongoing campaign by Eckrich to honor, thank and support military families through its partnership with Operation Homefront. Hearts of Valor, which provides caregivers with annual retreats, support groups and online communities, supports the Helton family.
Eckrich, in its fifth year of partnership with Operation Homefront, has donated more than $2.5 million to the organization since 2012.
"Eckrich is proud to continue supporting military families," said Chuck Gitkin, SVP of marketing, Smithfield Foods. "We appreciate Walmart's partnership and thank John Wallace for helping Eckrich present the Helton family with one year of free groceries."