Freed-Hardeman University Benefit Dinner to feature Gary Sinise virtually

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Gary Sinise

The Freed-Hardeman University Annual Benefit Dinner scheduled for Dec. 4 already has exceeded last year’s total by more than $100,000, according to Dave Clouse, vice president for community engagement.
The dinner this year will be a little different than planned. Featured guest Gary Sinise will not be able to attend in-person, because his son is gravely ill, and the situation will not allow for him to travel to Tennessee. Mr. Sinise said he regrets the last-minute change and has been gracious to arrange to be there live virtually in lieu of being with there in-person. This means that there will not be a photo session.
The event, featuring actor and activist Gary Sinise, includes changes this year to make the event safe for attendees in the current environment.
First, in accordance with CDC guidelines, attendance in Loyd Auditorium will be capped at 50 percent capacity. Guests who want to sit together are encouraged to arrive at the same time. Tickets will not have seat numbers on them. Therefore, as guests enter the auditorium, an usher will direct them to the best available seats, beginning at the front of the auditorium.
Dinner plans have also been altered. Platinum, corporate and underwriter donors will enjoy a served dinner in the Hope Barber Shull Academic Resource Center or in the Brown-Kopel Business Center lobby.
Other guests will receive a self-contained charcuterie, dubbed “A Taste of FHU,” at one of three locations: Brewer Sports Center’s main arena, the auxiliary gym or Wallace-Gano Dining Hall. “The meal is quite tasty,” Clouse said. “I have sampled it.” The box will also contain some additional special goodies.
At the dinner locations, guests will undergo temperature checks and health screenings. When they pass the checks, they will be issued a Protect the Pride sticker to wear throughout the evening, eliminating checks at the auditorium. Ticket holders have been asked their preferred time to dine. They had three options: 5 p.m., 6 p.m. or no preference. “We are doing all we can to avoid everyone’s arriving at the same time,” Clouse said.
Between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. guests will be able to enjoy Christmas in the Commons. A heated tent will house the Merry Market, a venue for upscale vendors to display their wares and help guests do some Christmas shopping. The FHU Associates will host a coffee house with their Beloved FHBrew. Carolers will entertain, and free horse-drawn carriage rides around Bader Green will be available. The university bookstore will also be open.
Loyd Auditorium doors will open at 7 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by the Tokens Show, a Nashville-based troupe presenting philosophical variety shows. “Imagine a world governed by hospitality, graciousness and joy; life marked by beauty, wonder and truthfulness and social conditions ordered by justice, mercy and peace-making,” they say on their website. “We exhibit tokens of such a world in music-making, song-singing and conversations about things that matter.”
The Tokens Show has been doing philosophical variety shows hosted in the Nashville area and beyond since 2008. They have hosted shows for more than a decade at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium and performed as far afield as Malibu, California; Lake Junaluska, North Carolina; Abilene, Texas; and Dayton, Tennessee.
Sinise has been an advocate of America’s servicemen and women for more than 30 years, beginning in the early 1980s with his support of Vietnam veterans groups. His portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in “Forrest Gump” formed a bond with the military community. After participating in several handshake tours in 2003, Sinise formed the Lt. Dan Band and began entertaining troops around the world. The band presents approximately 50 shows annually for military bases, charities and fundraisers supporting veterans and troops.
In 2011, Sinise established the Gary Sinise Foundation. Its mission is to serve and honor the nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need by creating and supporting programs that entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.
According to Clouse, tickets and sponsorships are still available. “This will be an evening of big announcements, new features and surprises,” Clouse said. “You don’t want to miss it!” Tickets may be purchased at fhu.edu/sinise.