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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Ely family to be June guest of AMI

Following his tour of duty in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Maj. Rick Ely and his family are planning to visit the Island in June.

Ely has become one of the Island's own local heroes with his heartfelt responses to letters sent him from students at both Anna Maria Elementary and Island Middle School.

Ely was stationed at Bagram Air Base, 40 miles north of Kabul, and worked as an executive officer of a helicopter maintenance battalion before returning home to his family in Iowa earlier this month.

Plans are already coming together for Ely to visit the Island for the first time with wife Joelle, daughter Kayla and son Alec.

Several local businesses will sponsor accommodations and services to the family and Fantasy Travel of Bradenton is working on a travel package.

David Teitlebaum is offering the family a four-night stay in the bayfront house at the Tortuga Inn. Longboat Limo has offered to drive Rick and Joelle to a romantic dinner donated by Euphemia Haye on Longboat Key.

The family has been invited to Mote Marine Aquarium and the Pelican Man's Bird Sanctuary, where they will get behind the scenes tours and a look at the bay aboard the Peli-boat.

A brunch for the family has been offered by Chef Damon Presswood of Ooh La La!, including his favorite dish for kids, "real French toast."

AME Principal Kathy Hayes said she would be happy to open the school for a community event in Ely's honor.

Nancy Ambrose and the Rev. Bill Grossman of Harvey Memorial Community Church can be contacted to make donations for the family's visit.

For more information contact Ambrose at 518-4431 or Grossman at 224-8608.