Robert Frackelton

Founder’s District

2024 Communication and Leadership (C&L) Award Recipient

About 20 years ago on Thanksgiving Day my neighbor had four young Marines at his home.  I knew he didn’t have kids that age so I asked him, “what’s up?”.  He shared with me that the US Marines at Camp Pendelton in the School of Infantry are mostly 18 year olds who graduated from high school the previous June, went through basic training over the Summer and are now in training for Infantry.  They are not able to travel home for Thanksgiving and this is really the first major holiday they have experienced away from home. 

So, the Armed Services YMCA on the base setup a program whereby local families can “adopt” two or more Marines on Thanksgiving Day.   My wife and I told my neighbor,  “we want to do that too”.  He said,  “that’s great because so does another family on the street, but can we hire a limo because I like to enjoy my wine and I don’t want to drive these guys back to base after dinner!”.  So, 19 years ago I hired a ridiculous stretch Hummer limo and we went and picked up 12 Marines for the day.  We also got each one a gift – a multi-tool, head lamp and pocket knife.  It was terrific.  These young men were from all over the country and were so fun-loving, full-of-life and so darn polite.  Then things began to snowball. 

The next year we had 10 families and we brought home 32 Marines.  For over 15 years now we have been recruiting 40-60 families in my neighborhood and we bring home 100 to 130 Marines!  We now have 5 big party buses that pick them up and bring them home.  Everyone gets a gift and usually our local Congressperson will join us in our town center when they arrive to give each a challenge coin and their personal thanks.  The Villa Park Marine Thanksgiving event has become a big tradition in our little town. 

My three children David, Evan and Samantha help in recruiting host families, organizing who goes on which party bus, making name tags for everyone, getting donated snacks and drinks from Dunkin and our Ralphs Grocery store, inviting dignitaries to our welcome event, asking local car collectors to open up their garages to the Marines and their hosts that might want to check them out, wrangling all the Marines back to Pendleton that night, wrapping all the gifts, develop a website to gather donations for the gifts and limos from each host family, etc. 

We love doing it because it is a small way we get to thank these young people for putting themselves on the line to defend our Country.  I wish we could do it for every holiday.  Here’s some great photos from our Facebook group page:

Here’s our website with more information:

Robert’s background:

I was born in Southern California the son of two native Southern Californians and the Grandchild of two more native Southern Californians.  Grew up in the little City of Villa Park in Orange County and earned an athletic scholarship to UCLA playing water polo.  While in college I met my now lovely wife, Madonna.  After we both graduated, she went off to medical school at Boston University while I got my MBA at Babson College. 

After earning those degrees, we moved back to Southern California where I started my career at Reeve Store Equipment Co. and she as an Emergency Medicine doctor.  Reeve Store Equipment Co. manufactures store fixtures – the racks, shelving and displays in retail stores like REI, Skechers, American Eagle Outfitters, LL Bean and many more.  At one point or another I have worn many different hats at Reeve – Purchasing, Design, Foreman, Supervisor, Sales Manager and now after nearly 30 years I own the darn place and get to make the coffee.  I am blessed with a tremendous team that goes above and beyond to take care of our outstanding retail clients.  

While working full-time, I also find time to volunteer such as…

  • Leading the Villa Park Marines Thanksgiving program whereby 100 or so new Marines get adopted by 50 or so local Villa Park families every Thanksgiving
  • Past President of the Rotary Club of Villa Park
  • Packing Meals on Wheels every Tuesday morning
  • Chairing my college Fraternity’s Alumni Scholarship Committee
  • Serving on the Villa Park Community Services Foundation Board of Directors
  • Co-Chair of Villa Park High School’s Campus Care Day Committee
  • Past President of the Pico Rivera Chamber of Commerce
  • Past President of the National Association of Store Fixture Manufacturers
  • Villa Park National Junior Basketball Chapter Director and Coach
  • YMCA Indian Guides/Princess Tribal Chief and Nation Chief
  • Reserve Firefighter for Orange County Fire Authority from 2002 to 2010 where I was named Rookie of the Year and Station 23 Firefighter of the Year three times
  • Past AYSO Soccer Coach
  • Past President of the Villa Park High School Aquatics Boosters
  • Past Director of the Villa Park High School Tennis Boosters

I am proud to have been named Pico Rivera’s Man of the Year and Villa Park’s Distinguished Citizen of the Month.  I am most proud to be called “Dad” by my kids.