Monte De Oro Winery, in association with the Thomas DeAngelis Memorial Fund and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, hosted a fundraising event Friday evening to benefit U.S. Marine Cpl. Juan Dominguez, a triple-amputee who has chosen Temecula to be his new home.
Hundreds gathered on the winery’s windy patio to applaud Cpl. Dominguez as he arrived at the Monte De Oro Winery aboard a Navy S60 Seahawk helicopter.
“People were enthralled with his entrance on the helicopter,” said former Marine and event founder Jim Smollen. “The turn-out was wonderful, and I couldn’t be happier.”
“We just wanted to join in and be apart of it all,” said Diana Porter, who heard about the event during Happy Hour at another winery. “I heard about it and thought I just got to bring all my friends.”
The evening featured an aerial rappelling demonstration, wine and food from more than 30 wineries and local restaurants, a live and silent auction as well as entertainment by the Brewer Boys and other well-known Inland Empire acts.
The event was not the first fundraiser hosted in honor of Cpl. Dominguez. Earlier this year, award-winning actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band staged a concert in conjunction with the city and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation to benefit Dominguez at the Temecula Civic Center.
“It’s all been very overwhelming, almost surreal,” Dominguez said of his reception in Temecula. “It’s awesome to know that people care so much.”
Dominguez, 27, lost both his legs and right arm in October 2010 when he slipped down a small embankment and landed on a buried 30-40 lb. bomb in Afghanistan. He has undergone 23 surgeries and is currently an outpatient at the U.S. Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
All proceeds and ticket sales from the event went towards the furnishing of a “smart house” in Temecula for Dominguez and his wife Alexis. The two-story home broke ground two weeks ago and was purchased with funds raised by the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation.
Dominguez chose to have the home built in Temecula because of and the friendliness of the community and its location between Los Angeles and San Diego. Temecula residents have embraced the New Mexico-native as its hometown hero ever since.
Amy Donnelly is a photojournalist and regular contributor to SWRNN.