Annual event raises funds for wounded soldiers
A New Jersey family has turned the tragic loss of their son in Iraq into a charity that continues to benefit an untold number of military veterans and soldiers, both at home and abroad.
The sixth annual Toast to Dennis will be held at the Rumson estate of Kim and Ron Jaeger on September 6th in honor of First Lieutenant Dennis W. Zilinski II of Howell Township, who died in combat in 2005.
His mother, Marian Zilinski, said proceeds from a reverse auction at the gala will go toward the purchase of service dogs from a program called K9's for Warriors, which suppors soldiers suffering with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Zilinski said PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury is commonly treated with medication, but in their research, they found that these service dogs have been a real alternative to the drugs.
"And these dogs are trained to read the emotion of the service man or woman," Zilinski explained. "And they get them to calm down and to be reintegrated back into society, which is what we really want for them."
The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski II Memorial Fund was established in 2006. Marian Zilinski is the co-founder of the fund.
When asking her what proceeds raised through the fund go towards, she mentioned a long list of programs, such as: projects to help retrofit homes for disabled veterans, financial assistance for education, vets on Social Security and for families traveling to visit wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
However, no project is too small for the fund.
Zilinski said when they asked a soldier stationed abroad what he'd like in his care package, he said he didn't really need anything, but did request items for his military dog. So, the Zilinski Fund shipped a box of toys and treats for military dogs.
"Well, these dogs are soldiers as well and they're keeping our troops alive," said Zilinski.
According to their press release, the Toast to Dennis will feature a menu prepared by former White House Chef John Grifo, who was named one of south Jersey's top 25 chefs by Atlantic City Magazine. There will be live entertainment, a selection of wine and a number of live and silent actions at the event.
Zilinski said they also try to get as many military members as they can to attend the event. This year, they're even asking those who can not attend the event to purchase a ticket for a service member.
Tickets are available for $150 by following this link. The charity also host a number of fundraisers through out the year.