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American Airlines cutting ties with Sky Ball charity; will host its own gala to benefit veterans

In an October, 2014 photo future sailors from Navy Recruiting District Dallas take the oath of enlistment from Adm. Bill Gortney, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, during the 12th Annual American Airlines Sky Ball.

JONATHAN VARGAS/U.S. NAVY

By KYLE ARNOLD | The Dallas Morning News | Published: December 30, 2019

DALLAS (Tribune News Service) — American Airlines is moving on from its partnership with veterans charity Airpower Foundation and will no longer host one of the region’s signature fundraisers, the Sky Ball — at least under that name.

The Fort Worth-based AirPower Foundation sent a letter to supporters this month saying that American Airlines will no longer allow the use of its hangar at DFW International Airport for the annual aviation-themed event.

This year’s Sky Ball event raised $2.4 million to benefit causes for active-member military families, families of fallen soldiers and veteran causes. It featured an appearance by country music star Martina McBride and performances by Stoney LaRue and Austin Allsup. Celebrity chef Robert Irvine coordinated the food.

“After 12 years of successful life-changing events, American Airlines has decided to change their fundraising model, and how they provide support to military organizations,” said the letter from the AirPower Foundation. “Due to these changes, Sky Ball will no longer be held with American Airlines at their maintenance hangar.”

About 2,400 people attended this year’s gala, American Airlines said.

But an American Airlines spokeswoman said the company will continue hosting a fundraiser for military and veteran causes. It will just do so without the help of AirPower, and probably without the Sky Ball name.

“We still plan to hold the event, but it will no longer benefit the AirPower Foundation,” said American Airlines spokeswoman Chris Singley. “Instead, the funds raised will go directly to military and veterans charities.”

Singley said the future event will more closely mirror American’s two other large charity undertakings, the American Airlines Celebrity Ski in Beaver Creek, Colo., and American Airlines Charity Golf in San Diego. American hosts those events and then donates the money directly to charity, Singley said.

American Airlines donated the hangar space for the event, and hundreds of company employees volunteered every year for the Sky Ball.

The AirPower Foundation said in its letter that it will continue to hold a Sky Ball “into 2020 and beyond.” Leaders for the charity did not respond to a request for comment.

American Airlines and AirPower have partnered to put on the event for 12 years. The Sky Ball gala made up nearly all of AirPower’s fundraising revenues in 2017, the last year for which records are publicly available.

One of the largest recipients of AirPower Foundation funds is Snowball Express, a program through actor Gary Sinise’s foundation that partners with American Airlines to provide vacation retreats for families of fallen soldiers.

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