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Inaugural gala raises more than $10,000 for disabled Salem veteran and Home for Our Troops

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: EMAR - Army Staff Sgt. Frank Wasson and his wife, Brooke, extend their gratitude to guests at the Mission Possible Gala. The Wasson's home in West Salem is currently in the works.On Friday, March 23, 200 people were deployed to Cedarville Lodge in Gresham on a mission.

They weren't outfitted in military camouflage under the cover of night, but arrived in evening attire as guests for East Metro Association Realtors (EMAR) inaugural Mission Possible Gala.

Amid the glitter and glamour was a serious purpose — to raise funds for Home for Our Troops (HFOT), a national nonprofit organization that presents mortgage-free, specially adapted homes to disabled post-9/11 veterans. Guests participated in silent and oral auctions, a Dessert Dash and other fun activities to help EMAR achieve its goal of raising $10,000.

"I'm told we met and even exceeded our goal, maybe even by a few thousand dollars," said Stephanie Johnsen, a broker with ERA Freeman & Associates Realtors, community outreach committee chair for EMAR and gala organizer. "The gala was a huge success, and we are so grateful to the East County community for all they did to participate and support our efforts and HFOT efforts. It was magical."

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: EMAR - Sandy resident and retired Army Sgt. Kevin Pannell addresses patrons at the Mission Possible Gala on Friday, March 23, at Cedarville Lodge in Gresham. The event was a fundraiser for Home for Our Troops, which provides mortgage-free specially adapted homes to post-9/11 veterans.On hand for the festivities, and keynote speaker, was retired U.S. Army Sgt. Kevin Pannell, a veteran of the Iraqi Freedom Campaign. Pannell, 39, was wounded by two grenades in Bagdad in June 2004, and eventually lost his left leg above the knee and his right leg below the knee. He received a Purple Heart for his service.

In 2011, Pannell was presented with keys to his 2,700-square-foot ranch home in Sandy by Home for Our Troops. The specially adapted home features wider hallways, lower countertops and wood flooring, which are all trademarks of the homes built and presented to veterans by HFOT.

For Pannell, that key ceremony seven years ago was life-changing.

"I've been able to throw myself into a lot of other stuff because I don't have to worry about a mortgage or rent," Pannell said, referring to the furniture he builds for friends in the garage. "It's hard to put into words — having a house handed to you. This has impacted my life a lot."

Funds raised at last weekend's Mission Possible Gala will be directed to a home for Army Staff Sergeant Frank Wasson III and his family in West Salem. Wasson and his wife, Brooke, attended the gala.

While the final tally of proceeds is still being compiled, Johnsen never questioned the backing from the community.

"I have watched my community come together many times and never doubted that they would all show up for this one," she said. "I always knew this mission was possible. It just all came gather in such a beautiful way. It was a bit emotional, but so touching."

In addition to patrons who attended the inaugural Mission Possible Gala, the East Metro Association of Realtors would to thank the following sponsors for their support and commitment to the event:

n Presenting sponsor: John Ayers and RMLS

n Silver sponsors: Sue O'Halloran and KMO Realty, Kristina Molina and Sandy John L. Scott, Gaye Bell and Gresham First American Title Company, Sarah Berwick and OnPoint Community Credit Union, Betty Cantu and Mojave Grill & Cantina, Cathy Anderson and Powell Valley Assisted Living, Robie Ranes and Legacy & Ranes Realty, Jean Ice and ERA Freeman & Associates, Realtors

n Table hosts: Hayley Cascio and Next Title, Kris Cochran and the Cochran Property Group, Neil and Deena Jensen and Mortgage Express, Amy Tipsord and Gresham Ford, Joel and Janice Bramwell and Bramwell Properties, Karen Croston and Mt. Hood Realty, Craig Fahner and Gresham John L. Scott, Brigitte Erickson and Premier Mortgage, Sybil Fontaine and Lawyers Title Company, Lisa Sorenson and Premiere Property Group

n Print sponsor: Bear Printing

n Music sponsor: Millhouse

n Photography sponsor: Safiyah Maurice

n Catering sponsor: Busy Bee

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