STEVENS: Lobo Club Gets Grant From Boeing to put Military Personnel into Pit Seats
Dec. 5, 2008
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The letter from Boeing had Argy Maniatis, a sales manager in the UNM athletic marketing department, trembling in anticipation. "It was kind of like opening a Christmas present," she said.
It also was like opening a gift and getting exactly what you had asked for.
In this case, it was Boeing telling Maniatis that her grant request had been approved and Boeing was awarding the University of New Mexico's Lobo Club $5,000 to buy tickets to Lobo men's and women's basketball games to be distributed to New Mexico military personnel.
The UNM program called "Seating America's Heroes" is primarily designed to give the tickets to service men and women returning from active duty overseas. Maniatis said the tickets will go military personnel stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, Cannon Air Force Base, Holloman Air Force Base, but will include individuals in the New Mexico National Guard as well as New Mexico veterans.
"It's a small token of appreciation for all the sacrifices they make in serving our country," said Maniatis. "We feel it's important for them to know that the Lobos support them and the community supports them. This program gives them a chance to come to a community function with friends and be welcomed back into the community and welcomed to Lobo basketball."
Maniatis said she intended the grant money to include Lobo football, but didn't receive the news, or the check, until November. So, it's Steve Alford and Don Flanagan basketball for those military folks visiting UNM athletics.
Maniatis said so far in the young season the tickets have been going to Kirtland because of short notice. But she is working on bringing in some heroes from Holloman and Cannon. Cannon is located West of Clovis and Holloman is West of Alamogordo.
Maniatis said the grant purchased 26 season tickets and she is working with Cannon to bring up a large group for the Jan. 10 men's game against Air Force.
"We just got the tickets so right now Kirtland (in Albuquerque) has been getting most of them," said Maniatis. "Cannon and Holloman are pretty far away and they have to travel for three or four hours, so I want to give them time to set things up.
"At Cannon, they have spoken to the wing commanders, who are very excited about the program. They are trying to set up buses or maybe vans. I'm expecting them to take all the tickets for that (Air Force) game. We also think it would be neat, if they can come up in a group and hang out, get to know each other, if that hasn't happened yet. I plan to meet them and give them a tour of our facilities."
UNM's good fortune with Boeing also was a bit of lucky timing. Maniatis had been approaching various businesses trying to get them to jump on board the Seating America's Heroes program. The program is a continuation of UNM's efforts to recognize and salute individuals who protect and serve the private sector.
"When I approached Boeing they told me the only way they would do it was through a grant from their national office," said Maniatis. "They told me what the deadline was, told me to feel free to apply and 'Good luck.' I had never applied for a grant before. It was a lot of work."
However, it was effort that paid off -- for the Lobos, who will have a special cheering section, and for the military people getting a free seat courtesy of UNM and Boeing. The airline company awards grants for a variety of purposes, including community out-reach projects such as the one Maniatis presented to Boeing.
Maniatis said she plans to reapply for the Boeing Grant in 2009, include the football season, and try to get a few more businesses to chip in so more military personnel can enjoy Lobo athletics and the community contact that accompanies a UNM sporting event.
"This program is just a simple gesture, but we feel it is an important program at UNM," said Maniatis. "It's important for UNM to give back to the people who serve and protect us and let them know that we notice it and we appreciate what they do. We've been at war for years and it takes a toll on those in the military and on their families.
"I hope this is just the beginning. I want this to be an annual thing and I hope the business community will help it expand. I'm hoping it will grow so there is a whole section (in the stands) that we can call America's Heroes' Section."
Any businesses interesting in helping UNM provide a free seat to America's Heroes can contact the UNM marketing department at 925-5621.
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner