Category Archives: Events

Blog category for upcoming OOA and other events.

Operation Open Arms Presents USMC Fallen Hero Medallion

On Saturday May 26, 2012, OOA Founder Captain John Bunch presented the United States Marine Corp Fallen Hero Medallion to Mr. and Mrs. Murray at the Pink Shell Resort on Fort Myers Beach. Captain Bunch wrote:

“It was my honor and privilege to present the USMC Fallen Hero Medallion to the parents of Cpl Brandon Jeremy Murray of Cape Coral at 10AM this morning. Corporal Murray was a highly decorated US Marine who had distinguished himself as a brave and trusted warrior. 5 US Marines who served with Brandon in Afg were there to pay tribute. A part of me was taken away with Brandon today. God bless him, his family, and the USMC. Semper Fi”

US Marine Cpl Jonathan Taylor becomes OOA’s 2000th participant

Operation Open Arms afforded Marine Jonathon Taylor full benefits last night. He was the 2000th serviceman to receive benefits by Operation Open Arms. 1st Class Limousine provided the transportation to Blue Coyote where they were treated to dinner. Hoffman Photography was there to capture this special moment.

Jonathon will continue to enjoy his weekend in the Fort Myers area where numerous local business’s have donated services to this fine young man.

Prestigious Junonia Award for 2012 Presented to OOA

Harborside Convention Center, May 9 2012

Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce honored people and businesses for promoting community growth, creating local job opportunities and encouraging more people to visit the county at its annual award ceremony.

Operation Open Arms was honored with the Junonia award, so named after the “rare seashell that’s coveted by collectors visiting area beaches.”

Read the full story here.

Free Laser Vision to Winning Service Member from Collins Vision

Dr. Michael Collins and Collins Vision
Announce partnership with Operation Open Arms:


Dr. Michael Collins, Board Certified Ophthalmologist and Fellowship trained Eye Surgeon is partnering with Operation Open Arms to provide Collins LaserVision (Advanced Surface Ablation) to a deserving man or woman who is currently serving or has served in the US military. Operation Open Arms is a nationally acclaimed military outreach program that offers US Service men and women visiting Southwest Florida every conceivable benefit during their two week combat leave or return from a foreign duty station.

Through this partnership, Dr. Collins will perform Collins LaserVision (Advanced Surface Ablation) free of charge, which is the only form of Laser Vision Correction surgery approved by most military branches. This advanced form of Laser Vision Correction Surgery uses state-of-the-art technology to make the procedure safer, bladeless, and flap-free unlike traditional LASIK.

To nominate yourself or someone you know, simply write a brief letter explaining why you, or someone you know, should be considered for free care. Email to: or mail to: Operation Open Arms, 3624 Bayview Avenue, St. James City, FL 33956. Please title essay “Operation Giving Eyes Submission”. Deadline for your nominees is May 31. You will be notified if chosen.

For more information about Michael J. Collins, Jr., FACS, please visit their website at or call Lauren Dunford at (239) 936-4706.

Pine Islanders Pitch in For Soldier’s Wedding

Operation Open Arms Organizes 94th Wedding

From the

Operation Open Arms is granting another couple’s wish in April by taking care of a soldier’s wedding, which is the organization’s 94th wedding since 2005.

“Operation Open Arms is a network of individuals and businesses who extend every possible act of tangible kindness to our troops who risk their lives for our freedoms,” Operation Open Arms Founder Capt. John “GiddyUp” Bunch said.

He said in a recent USA Today poll, real estate values, the economy and how much 401Ks might be worth seem to preoccupy the psyche of most Americans.

“The relative concern for the well-being of our troops even stands behind the great political divide which keeps our country from being greater than it already is,” Bunch said. “However, there are still many Pine Islanders who chose to make a real difference.”

Some of those businesses and individuals include the Tarpon Lodge, Bert’s Bar, Sandy Hook, Jay at Bubba’s Roadhouse, Gerald Butters, Lisa Benton, Elaine McLaughlin, Maxine and Steve Woodard and Capt Chris Stanford.

The wedding for Matthew Welch, from Ashville, N.Y., and Haley Kibble, from Findley Lake, N.Y., will be held April 4 on the island.

By planning a wedding at no cost to the couple, Bunch said it provides them with the opportunity for a down payment on a house or to put money away to start a family.

Each Operation Open Arms wedding is worth a minimum of $15,000,

Bunch said. Operation Open Arms must pay for many things such as cake, limo, tents and the venue.

“But any time everyone chips in, the results are always magical,” he said. “Our troops have never contributed a dime. The first OOA wedding was all about my refusal to accompany a Marine to the Lee Courthouse and be his witness. In two days a full service wedding was provided.”

Jenifer Welch’s nephew Matthew, who turned 18 in October, is currently in training due to his planned deployment to Afghanistan on June 6. Matthew is a 12B Combat Engineer in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Welch said she has lived on the island for 10 years and Matthew’s grandparents, Bud and Dawn Welch of Bokeelia, have lived on the island for 16 years.

She said she has become friends with her nephew’s fiance on Facebook and has come to know her pretty well through their online communication. Once the engagement was announced, Welch said her nephew said they wanted to have a courthouse wedding.

Since Welch is a notary she asked them to get married in Florida.

“It turned into something way more than I expected, which is wonderful,” she said of Operation Open Arms helping with the wedding. “I thought it was going to be something that we would take them over (to Cayo Costa) on our personal boat with her parents, his parents and grandparents and do the vows and then go to dinner.”

A number of people came forward through Operation Open Arms to help with the wedding, along with the Women of the Moose providing the decorations and flower arrangements.

“It is kind of neat how it is all coming together,” Welch said.

The wedding started off with six people to witness the ceremony, which has grown close to 30 people now.

Welch said she used to work for Make A Wish Foundation, so she wanted to focus on the couple’s wedding day instead of Matthew leaving in about a month to Afghanistan. She said it is all about thinking positive about the wedding and not the outcome of him leaving for a year.

“They are very excited,” Welch said about the wedding plans. “We only communicate through Facebook. I send them bits and pieces of what people are doing. They are shocked at how much everyone is doing.”

She said they have made a lot of friends through the planning of the wedding.

“Everybody is offering to do something,” Welch said.

The couple is flying into town on April 1 for the wedding.

Since Haley’s dream is to have a beach wedding, the couple will most likely get married at the tip of Bokeelia on the beach, if they cannot make it to Cayo Costa due to the tides.

Annie Wenz will provide the entertainment for the wedding, Bubba’s is catering the food and Tarpon Lodge is providing a two-night stay for their honeymoon. The Matlacha Hookers also donated a large tent for the festivities.

“A special thanks is hereby extended to the new Madam of the Matlacha Hookers, DJR, for providing a critical level of support for this wonderful wedding. Thank you all for making such an enormous difference in the life of a U.S. soldier from Bokeelia who is being deployed to Afghanistan,” Bunch said. “You are all heroes in my eyes.”

Giddyup, Johnny, and Godspeed

Giddyup, Johnny, and Godspeed.

Emotional homecoming as soldier returns from deadly mission – WFTX-TV Fort Myers/Naples, FL

FORT MYERS, Fla. – An emotional homecoming tonight for a local soldier returning from a deadly mission in Afghanistan was aided by Operation Open Arms of Southwest Florida.

After a long year overseas, Frank Grimm finally returns home to Fort Myers. Total strangers applauding his arrival but his biggest fan is his wife Erin who met him at Fort Riley in Kansas on the last leg of their trip.

The non-profit corporation, Operation Open Arms, picked Frank’s family up at the airport tonight. They will also pay the tab at restaurants while he’s here and he will get to drop the first puck at the Everblades hockey game.

See the video and read the full story here:

Emotional homecoming as soldier returns from deadly mission – WFTX-TV Fort Myers/Naples, FL.

Greek Fest Fort Myers Benefits Operation Open Arms

Coming in February 2012

The 37th Annual Greek Fest in Fort Myers – February 24, 25, and 26 – has chosen Operation Open Arms and the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida to benefit from this year’s event.

This must-do family event features:

Authentic Greek Food
• Carnival Rides & Games
• Dance Exhibitions
• Live Music by Demetrios & The Islanders
• Merchandise Vendors
• Church Tours
• Car or $25,000 Raffle
• Cash Raffle

February 24, 25 & 26, 2012. Friday-Saturday 11am-11pm and Sunday 12pm-5pm (NOTE: Sunday’s new hours!)

Admission: Adults $5 for the entire weekend. Children under 12 years old are free.

Location: Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
8210 Cypress Lake Drive • Fort Myers, Florida 33919

Click here to visit the Official Greek Fest web site.

Operation Open Arms and Pink Shell Resort Host 6 Weddings

Veteran’s Day, 11-11-11, and Six Weddings on Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Operation Open Arms and the Pink Shell Resort hosted six weddings on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2011.  Fox 4 News reports on the joyous occasion in this video link.