Retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Gilbert J. Feest, better known as the beloved “Spanky,” was a true military enthusiast. Not only did he proudly support the armed forces, but he also had an undying passion for the Green Bay Packers. His vibrant personality and love for both were reflected in his sports bar and grille, aptly named, Spanky’s. The moment you stepped into this lively establishment, you were surrounded by Packers’ memorabilia, green and gold lights illuminating the space, and Packers’ curtains adorning the windows. It was a place where camaraderie thrived, and stories of military valor intertwined with spirited discussions about football.
Spanky’s patrons and fellow service members held him in high regard, making his tragic passing in a motorcycle accident in March 2020 a devastating blow to the Jacksonville, NC community. The outpouring of support for the 71-year-old veteran and his family was overwhelming, with heartfelt messages flooding social media platforms. Comments like, “The world will be an unhappy place without you,” and “he generously gave to support wounded warriors and veterans, he will be missed,” truly captured the impact Spanky had on those around him.
However, in the face of this heartbreak, Shawn and Cyndy Brown were determined to keep Spanky’s legacy alive. They stepped up to the challenge and took over the sports bar, wholeheartedly continuing what Spanky had started. Hope For The Warriors had been an organization close to Spanky’s heart since 2007, and his dedication inspired Cyndy and Shawn to carry on his mission. HOPE’s National Donor Events Manager, Danielle Rose, expressed deep gratitude, saying, “HOPE was built by its local supporters, and without them, we wouldn’t be able to support the growing needs of our military families. We’re so grateful for their continued support through the years, even after Spanky’s passing.”
Shawn and Cyndy both have profound connections to the military community. Both of their fathers served in the military, making their commitment to the cause even more personal. After connecting with HOPE’s Director of Military Relations, Lee Bonar, the decision to align with the organization was an easy one. Cyndy enthusiastically shared her thoughts, saying, “To me, hands down, HOPE was the one to go with. They were the nicest people, to me, they’re just a great organization.”
Determined to rally the community every year in support of HOPE, Shawn, Cyndy, their daughter, Cheyenne, and all of Spanky’s friends organize an annual event that brings people together for a meaningful cause. The second annual Spanky’s golf tournament held this spring attracted a large crowd, with about 75 percent of participants being military personnel. Cyndy was astounded by their overwhelming generosity, recounting countless acts of selflessness. One individual who won a raffle chose to donate their winnings back to the cause. Another participant signed up for the tournament, even though he wasn’t going to play since his wife couldn’t join him, just to show his support. Shawn played a crucial role in ensuring the tournament ran smoothly, meticulously arranging everything on the course. His passion for the cause was undeniable, as acknowledged by Danielle, who said, “You can tell that they [Cyndy, Shawn, and Cheyenne] specialize in people; going above and beyond, making sure that everyone has an amazing experience from start to finish.”
The following day, a heartwarming moment occurred when Cheyenne and Shawn presented Hope For The Warriors with a check for five thousand dollars. The excitement in the room was palpable, and the impact of their contribution could be seen firsthand. As Cyndy aptly stated, “You can tell exactly how [the money] is being used. It makes you feel good to help.”
When Cyndy isn’t busy organizing events and supporting HOPE as the Vice President of the sports bar, she spends much of her time in her office—a space painted in vibrant “Packer Gold.” Within this spirited sanctuary, she keeps a plethora of items that will be auctioned off during the third annual tournament next spring. With each passing year, the goal is to make the event bigger and better. Cheyenne plays a pivotal role in this endeavor, consistently raising the bar and striving to surpass the previous year’s achievements. Together, the dynamic trio constantly brainstorms and implements fresh ideas to enhance the overall experience.
Their journey has only just begun.
Volunteers are the heartbeat of our organization as they show our military community that the country is behind them. If you want to hear how you can bring your talents, skills, and desire to serve our nation’s heroes to HOPE, please email us at email@example.com or click here for more information!