Blog Posts

Blog Posts

This is the perfect place for Basket Express to present blog posts and for you to join in the fun, too! Here we will discuss holidays, occasions, reasons to send gift baskets and flowers, exciting events occurring at Roadrunner Florist & Basket Express.  Click here to read about Pamela of  Roadrunner Florist and Tina of  Basket Express. We are REAL PEOPLE designing Floral Arrangements and Gift Baskets for REAL PEOPLE (like you!)!

Tina hydrangea Basket Express presents Blog Posts

‘Tis the Season…for Bows!

‘Tis the Season…for Bows!

Did you know I spend the month of July hand-making every bow that goes on top of the custom gift baskets I design for Christmas?  One year I forgot and left it until November! NEVER AGAIN!! I learned my lesson and I devote July to making Christmas Bows. Boy, is it worth it, because it gives you an opportunity to have lots of different varieties from which to choose when you order your gift baskets from Basket Express!

This year I have:

A beautiful satin red bow with gold trim.

Red Christmas Bow with Gold Trim

A gold metallic bow.

Gold Metallic Bow for Christmas

A red bow with gold dots.

Red Bow with gold dots

A soft white bow with “Merry Christmas” embossed on it.

White bow with Christmas on It

A red bow with gold trim.

Red with Gold trim Christmas bow

A metallic silver bow.

Christmas Bow Shiney Silver

A winter-white bow with copper Christmas decoration.

Christmas Bow

A red velvet bow with gold glitter.

Red velvet Christmas bow

A Christmas Plaid bow.

Christmas Plaid Bow

A festive bow with red birds.

Christmas bow with red birds

A soft gold bow Lamme with gold trim.

Gold lamme Christmas bow

An ivory bow with red swirls.

Christmas Swirl Bow

 

Each bow is a work of art. Each bow is different. Each bow sits atop a custom designed gift basket that YOU send to your loved one, friend, co-worker, customer, client, attorney, accountant, dentist, veterinarian, doctor or special person.

When you send one of our custom gift baskets, you know the lucky recipient is going to say “WOW!” 

You’re going to look like you are so smart, so sophisticated and so interested in them, and they will think you took a lot of time and effort into choosing the perfect gift just for them! (Little will they know how easy it is to choose from our amazing website www.giftbasketsbytina.com)!!

They’ll know you didn’t visit a big box store and pick something off the shelf because you think too highly of them to do that, right?

And they’ll receive their perfect Christmas present all wrapped up with one of these hand-made bows!

Assorted Christmas Bows

What a great way to say Merry Christmas to people who are unique and special, just like you.

Tina & Pamela

602-246-1271   888-446-1271

www.giftbasketsbytina.com

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Expecting!

Fresh Fruit for Christmas

It’s Official!

WE’RE EXPECTING!

I have some amazing (OMG AMAZING) but at the same shocking (VERY SHOCKING) news! WE’RE EXCPECTING!

Just under 8 weeks from now!

I know, I’m shocked, too! I can hardly believe it myself.

I wasn’t going to post it on facebook or google or twitter or pinterest! But I decided to tell YOU because you’re my friends! I don’t really want it to be a secret, but gee, I’m overwhelmed!

Who would have guessed that me, of all people, would be expecting again? But WE ARE!!

We are expecting Santa in less than 8 weeks!!  Can you believe it? ONLY 8 WEEKS!

Ha ha ha!!

Join in the fun by hitting the button below to “share” this with your friends!

Choose your gift baskets here! They’re custom designed (each and every one of them) with TLC! Each is unique and made to order (not sitting around on a shelf after a long boat ride from China).

Order them NOW in time for us to play Santa and deliver them for you!

Christmas Gourmet Gift Basket  xmas fruit b  Christmas Fruit and Candy Basket  xmas basket with fruit  Fresh Fruit for Christmas  Christmas Fruit Gourmet Chocolates

Click here for an amazing selection of holiday gift baskets, designed and delivered just for you!

www.giftbasketsbytina.com

 

Tina’s Tidbits and Tales

Autumn cube of flowers

We’re changing the way our blog and email looks. Effective TODAY. What do you think of the new look?

Tina’s Tidbits and Tales seems to be a great title for me. After all, I send all kinds of information to you, some of which has to do with business, some has to do with things happening in the world, in life, occasions on the calendar, whatever strikes my fancy. Sometimes I even tell you which holidays are coming up.  (Those would be Boss’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and yes, Christmas!)

It’s the first week of October and that means it’s time to think about fall. What are your favorite memories of fall?

Did you like to rake the leaves and then jump into the pile?

Jumping into fall leaves

 

Maybe you remember going out to the pumpkin patch to choose the very best pumpkin!

Pumpkin patch

Whatever your memories, this is a great time of year!

You can liven up someone’s autumn day by sending a terrific veggie gift basket or a great sunshinny cube of autumn flowers. 

Top of the Line Vegie Basket  Autumn cube of flowers

We hope you’ll enjoy reading Tina’s Tales and Tidbits: ’cause you never know what you’re going to find here!

Happy October!

Wisdom From a Friend

A friend like you

Wisdom From a Friend

 A friend like you

 If you will take the time to read these, I promise you’ll come away with an elighted perspective.  The subjects covered affect us all on a daily basis: they’re written by Andy Rooney, a man who had the gift of saying so much with so few words.

Enjoy…… 

I’ve learned …. the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

I’ve learned ….That when you’re in love, it shows.

I’ve learned ….That just one person saying to me, ‘You’ve made my day!’ makes my day.

I’ve learned ….That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.

I’ve learned ….That being KIND is more important than being right.

I’ve learned ….That you should never say no to a gift from a child.

I’ve learned ….That I can always pray for someone when I don’t have the strength to help him in some other way.

I’ve learned ….That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

I’ve learned ….That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

I’ve learned ….That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.

I’ve learned ….That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

I’ve learned ….That we should be glad God doesn’t give us everything we ask for.

I’ve learned ….That money doesn’t buy class.

I’ve learned ….That it’s those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

I’ve learned ….That under every one’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

I’ve learned ….That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.

I’ve learned ….That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.
 I’ve learned ….That love, not time, heals all wounds.

I’ve learned ….That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.

I’ve learned ….That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.

I’ve learned ….That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.

I’ve learned …That life is tough, but I’m tougher.

I’ve learned ….That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.

I’ve learned ….That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

I’ve learned ….That I wish I could have told my Dad that I love him one more time before he passed away.

I’ve learned ….That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.

I’ve learned …That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

I’ve learned ….That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, that you’re hooked for life.

I’ve learned ….That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.

I’ve learned ….That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.
 
To all of you….we’re glad you are our friends!
 
It’s National Friendship Week.  Show your friends how much you care.  Send this to ‘everyone’ you consider a FRIEND.
 
                HAPPY FRIENDSHIP WEEK TO YOU!!!
           YOU ARE MY FRIEND AND I AM HONORED!
 
    Brought to you by Tina and Pamela,
                 

Arizona State University SunDevils

ASU Snack Gift Basket

The Arizona State University SunDevils

begin their 2015-2016 football season this Saturday at Texas A&M and then return to Tempe for their first home game of the season against CalPoly on September 12.

If you’re an ASU fan, student, neighbor, alumni, then you know what it’s like to experience game day in Sun Devil Stadium.

For some of us, it’s been years (gee, do I want to admit how many years?) since attending a college football game as a student. (OK, I’ll admit it, I attended UofA games in Tucson, but please don’t tell anywhere up here!). And of course Pamela attended Michigan State University games in East Lansing, MI.

There is nothing like a college football game. As much as I love the Denver Broncos, there’s something special in the air when it’s a college game.  The fans never sit down! The noise never stops! The band plays all the time! The fun is never-ending!

Did you know I sang the National Anthem on the 50 yard line when the  Iowa State Hawkeyes and Pittsburgh Panthers played at the Insight.com Bowl Game January 1, 2001?  What a joy that was!! Pamela played the clarinet in the Play It Again Band and we had a blast! Then we enjoyed the game and it didn’t even matter to us which team won!

What does all of this have to do with ASU? Well, I’m excited to tell you!

Basket Express is the EXCLUSIVE GIFT BASKET COMPANY for Arizona State University!

Basket Express | Phoenix, AZ

Yes, you read that right!! ASU has a new app (ASUDeals) which is open to everyone (that’s YOU).  There you’ll find lots of goodies, like restaurants, hair cuts, pizza, and BASKET EXPRESS!

That means there are discounts and offerings! Right now I’m offering a discount on an ASU Spirit & Snack Basket.

ASU Snack Gift Basket

And the fun of the app is I get to change my offer whenever I want! So, if you’re an ASU person (and you know who you are!!), then check it out!! ASUDeals on your Smartphone! Scroll down just a bit and you’ll find Basket Express!

 

Apples!

Really Nice Fresh Fruit Basket

Today I want to talk apples.

You know, the red ones, the green ones, the sweet ones, the tart ones, even the in-between ones!

Apples

I’ve never been to an apple orchard (apples don’t exactly grow in the desert southwest) but many of you have! This is your chance to tell me about your trips to an apple orchard! What did you do there? Did you actually climb the trees to get to the apples? How do they keep the worms and birds away? What’s the weather like? Does it rain all the time or is it foggy? Did you wear rubber gloves? Did you get to eat the apples right there on the spot?

Have you ever visited a cider mill? Pamela has, in Franklin, Michigan. Did you watch them make apple cider?

I did a Google search for a picture of an apple orchard. OMG…is this what they really look like?

Apple Orchard

My friend Arnie lives in Connecticut. We told me he was going grocery shopping today, and I asked him to pick up some apples for me!! Yea, right, as if he could do that and bring them right over (it’s only about 2,500 miles!). But he offered (wasn’t that nice of him) and then he told me “next month is apple picking season, so I’ll go to the grove and pick some for you. They’re delicious.”

So I jumped on the opportunity and said, Great, pick some for me!

Then I told him this tidbit: Abbie and I share an apple every day. (yesterday we didn’t have one and we had blueberries instead …not a good season for blueberries and she didn’t like them!).

(For those of you who don’t know, Abbie is my dog. She’s a Bagel (that’s part Black Lab and part Beagle). She LOVES apples.)

Abbie and Me

I was raised on apples. My dad (who is 92) still eats an apple a day! We used to have an Apple Par-tay (accent on the tay) in the evening. We would challenge him to peel a red delicious apple all in one piece (sometimes he could do it) and then we’d fight over who got to eat the peel! Of course it was the middle of that incredible apple that was the star of the show! Pamela’s mother ate an apple every day, too, and she lived to be 91. There must be something special about apples!

Back to the tidbit about apples. I have seen noticeable improvement in my skin since Abbie and I started this at the first of the year! Could it be? Well, the dark spots under my eyes are gone (are you listening, Cindy, because we always thought it was inherited). And I’m tanning beautifully (no burning skin here). I discovered the benefits of eating fruit each day — 1.5 cups for women or 2 cups for men is recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They say, “Consuming apples boosts your intake of essential nutrients, including fiber and the essential mineral potassium. Apples also benefit your appearance, since they contain nutrients that nourish your skin.” They also say apples provide Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Copper.”  Copper? Yes, Copper. Here’s what the U.S. Department of Agriculture says about apples and Copper: “Copper helps you make melanin, the brown-black pigment that colors your skin. Melanin in your skin protects you from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, so being able to produce melanin provides natural sun protection. Melanin also makes up an essential part of other tissues, including your eyes and hair. Each large apple contains 60 micrograms of copper, or 7 percent of your daily copper requirements, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.”

Whenever I design a fresh fruit gift basket, I always include apples. There are so many kinds! Here’s a chart I found that tells about the different types and varieties of apples.

Apple Chart

I remember one day last December I was designing about 25 fresh fruit gift baskets for Christmas presents. I brought in cases of apples from a local farmer’s market and started to separate them for the baskets. Pamela said, “Gee, aren’t you putting anything in the fruit baskets except apples?” But of course I was (I added pears, oranges, lemons, grapefruit and bananas) but the highlight of the fresh fruit baskets were the apples.

Really Nice Fresh Fruit Basket  Fruit basket for Seymour  small fruit basket  Fresh Fruit Coffee gift Basket

My dad still prefers red delicious apples, Pamela, Abbie and I like galas. What is your favorite type of apple and why?

Going Back to School

Really Nice Fresh Fruit Basket

We're Going Back to School

 

We’re Going Back To School!

Gee, it’s about time to think about our students going back to school!

Have you ever thought about sending a goodie basket to a preschool child going to school for the first time? I know Harper (who is 3) will LOVE receiving this from her grandma (that’s me!). We make sure the items are toddler friendly, with large items that they won’t swallow if they put them in their mouth!

Children Basket

Kindergarten children will love a gift basket for their first day of school! Imagine how special and Grown-up they’re feel when they receive a present from you!

Age appropriate back to school basket

Older students need different things as they start their school year. From pencils to rulers, crayons to nuts, we design and deliver age and grade appropriate gifts for you!

Older back to school basket

College Students are a class to themselves! They LOVE LOVE LOVE getting goodies for themselves. If they are thinking healthy, then send them our Fresh Veggie Basket  or Fresh Fruit!

 

Fresh Veggie Basket   Really Nice Fresh Fruit Basket

 

We are the official gift basket designers for Arizona State University!!

ASU-Arizona State University

We are the closest flower and gift basket shop to Grand Canyon University

 GCU Logo

Phoenix College

Phoenix College Logo

Carrington College

Carrington College logo

Arizona College

Arizona College logo

and DeVry Phoenix.

DeVry Logo

Are you going to send your student a goodie basket to celebrate going back to school?

Let us help you get the school year off right!

www.giftbasketsbytina.com

Church Ladies with Typewriters … I couldn’t resist sending this to you!

Tina Ashburn-Owner Basket Express

Church Ladies With typewriters . . .

I simply couldn’t resist sending this to you!

 

They’re Back! Those wonderful Church Bulletins! Thank God for church ladies with typewriters. These sentences (with all the BLOOPERS) actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services:  

 The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
————————–
The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’
————————–
Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
————————–
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say ‘Hell’ to someone who doesn’t care much about you.
————————–
Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.
————————–
Miss Charlene Mason sang ‘I will not pass this way again,’ giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
————————–
For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
————————–
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
————————–
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
————————–
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow..
————————–
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What Is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.
————————–
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
————————–
Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
————————–
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered..
————————–
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
————————–
Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow.
————————–
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
————————–
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
————————–
Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM . All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. Is done.
————————–
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
————————–
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
————————–
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
————————–
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
————————–
The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new campaign slogan last Sunday: ‘I Upped My Pledge – Up Yours.

Good morning from Beautiful Phoenix, AZ! I hope you smiled when you read this today! Make it a great day!!

Tina Ashburn-Owner Basket Express  From Tina at Basket Express  www.giftbasketsbytina.com

What Are You Doing for Father’s Day?

Weber Grill

What Are You Doing for Father’s Day?

I wish I could spend Father’s Day with  my dad in Denver. He’s 92 years young, and he and my mom are terrific! Pamela and I went to visit them in April and we had a great time!

Denver, Colorado

Father’s Day, celebrated June 21, 2015, is set aside to honor dad. If you are fortunate to have your dad still living, then you can share the special day by sending him something special so he knows how great he is.

My dad

What memories do you have? My dad used to take me to Union Station to see the trains. We used to go to baseball games (AAA league) where he could enjoy smoking a cigar! We used to walk across a school playground and he would call cadence. He used to watch me swing on the rings in grade school.

My dad was a CPA. (he used to say that stood for “constant pain in the ass”). He was truly busy during tax time, and nothing could drag him away from his clients. However, when I was in 8th grade, I was in a play put on by my Latin class. It was the story of the death of Julius Caesar, and I played Calpurnia, his wife.  I had one hysterical line in our play, “Julie, don’t go! I told him, Julie, don’t go”! My mom came to watch the play (where Julius Caesar was “killed” on the stage and eventually he stood up and took a bow) and she laughed so hard that she decided to drive across town to get my dad so he could watch the second production! It wasn’t until that evening that I learned my dad and his client had come to the school to watch the play!

What would your dad like for Father’s Day?

If he likes to grill, then the Weber Grill is perfect!

Weber Grill

Maybe he likes fresh fruit, cookies and snacks!

Goodies Extraordinaire

Maybe there’s a football, basketball or baseball team that’s his favorite!

bronco  gift basket

Father’s Day is the perfect time to tell dad how much you love him, and we can help. Simply visit www.giftbasketsbytina.com and select the perfect gift for dad.

If you’ve lost your dad, then it’s a day to remember him in wonderful ways. Perhaps looking at old photographs, maybe telling stories, maybe doing something that you and he liked to do together.

Whatever path you take, June 21st is the day set aside for dad!

Father's Day June 21, 2015

 

A Little Humor

A Little Humor about Costo

Sometimes we need a little humor!

OK, a lot of times we need a little humor!

We’re gearing up for Mother’s Day, one of our busiest times of the year, and yes, we need a little humor! We hope you enjoy these tidbits today!

A little bit of Costo humor!

A Little Humor about Costo

Here’s a beauty about  beauty!

Beauty Treatment Humor

This is definitely ME!! Is it you, too!

Bubble Wrap Humor

This one’s for my daughter Lauren, who, when she was in high school said:

“You Never Need Math!”

Funny, because her first real job with at Chase Bank!

Algebra Humor

Do you know someone who thinks they took it with them?

Last Words humor

And my favorite of the day:

A Little Humor Advice

Do you have a favorite that helps you get through the day? Please share it with us!

Facebook  or Google+ 

Have a wonderful day!!

Precious Moments

Precious Moments!

Did you know my dad is a CPA? He earned his degree using the GI Bill after WWII (I hope you read my recent tribute to him) at the University of Colorado in the late 1940s. He and my mom married in 1947 and my brothers were born in 1948 and 1949.

By the time I came along in 1954 (that’s a cute story because many years later I was having dinner with my parents when I asked my dad if I had been born a boy would he have tried again? and my mother answered NO!) my brothers were old enough to know they had a “sister baby” and they were also old enough to pick on me and tease me. A lot.

My mother was a pioneer of working women. She raised 3 children and ran my dad’s accounting office with an iron hand. The partnership, known as Smith, Brooks, Bolshoun, grew to about 20 CPAs before my dad retired.

I remember a story my mom told when she was going to purchase a new “copier” for the office. I those days that means a HUGE Xerox or other type of copier (if you remember, they were the size of a room!). She had 3 or 4 companies she was considering, and one salesman sent her a dozen roses

A dozen red roses

as an incentive to buy from him. Oooh, she felt bad when she purchased the machine from another company!

My parents instilled an incredible work ethic in us. My oldest brother Sheldon is a very prominent attorney in Denver practicing with the law firm of Brian Cave where he is one of only about 600 attorneys in the country who practices ERISA. 

Our brother Gary lives in Phoenix and sells advertising specialties. Gary moved to Phoenix about 29 years ago for one reason and one reason only: Lauren.

April 15th is the most important day in the life of a CPA (and his daughter). I remember as a young child going to my dad’s office to help finalize income tax returns for those latecomers who chose to wait until the last minute. I remember driving to the post office before they closed at midnight to get the postmark just in time. I remember making copies of tax returns on an Oslid copier that used ammonia, long before we had Xerox copiers or printers. I remember watching my mom type on an IBM Selectric, the one with the little ball. I remember the importance of April 15th as the day I didn’t see much of my dad, and then on April 16th he’d take me shopping for dresses (even though he usually fell asleep) and we were together to celebrate the end of tax time.

Isn’t it ironic, therefore, that Lauren, my beautiful daughter, was born on April 15th! Correctly called “Labor Day” or a “Day of Labor”, I welcomed her into the world 30 years ago today. After she was born my husband called my parents and said these famous words, “It’s a baby!”

For 30 years I have known the joy of motherhood, watching Lauren blossom into the amazing young lady she is today. She used to ask me what I wanted for my birthday or for Mother’s Day and I always said “Straight A’s”. Imagine how proud I was to get my wish her final semester of high school!

I had the honor of attending her graduation of Northern Arizona University and then when she earned her Masters from the University of Phoenix. Now, at age 30, Lauren is the Registrar at Arizona College, Phoenix, AZ. and the mother of 2-1/2 year old Harper.

 Registrar, Arizona College

Sharing these precious moments with you helps me celebrate April 15th with my parents and with Lauren.  Happy Birthday, sweetheart! I love you more than life itself and I’m very proud of you.

Do you have April 15th precious moments you’d like to share? Here’s your chance!

 

 

In Honor of My Dad, USN WWII

In honor of my dad

I post this in Honor of my Dad,

Marvin Smith, US Navy, WWII Veteran.

This is a great story and I hope you will share it and pass it along.

Re: Army-Navy Game Train (an unpublicized act of generosity and appreciation).

Here’s a “today” story that occurred 4 months ago.

The idea started last Christmas when Bennett and Vivian Levin were overwhelmed by sadness while listening to radio reports of injured American troops. “We have to let them know we care,” Vivian told Bennett. So they organized a trip to bring soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital to the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia on December 3. The cool part is they created their own train line to do this. Yes, there are people in this country who actually own real trains.

Bennett Levin, a native Philly guy, self-made millionaire and irascible former L&I Commissioner, is one of them. He owns three luxury rail cars. Think mahogany paneling, plush seating and white-linen dining areas. He also has two locomotives, which he stores at his Juniata Park train yard.

One car, the elegant Pennsylvania, carried John F Kennedy to the Army-Navy game in 1961 and 1962. Later it carried his brother Bobby’s body to D.C. for burial. “That’s a lot of history for one car,” says Bennett.

He and Vivian wanted to revive a tradition that endured from 1936 to 1975, during which trains carried
Army-Navy spectators from around the country directly to the stadium where the annual game is played. The Levins could think of no better passengers to reinstate the ceremonial ride than the wounded men and women recovering at Walter Reed in D.C. and Bethesda in Maryland. “We wanted to give them a first-class experience,” says Bennett. “Gourmet meals on board, private transportation from the train to the stadium, perfect seats – real hero treatment.”

Through the Army War College Foundation, of which he is a trustee, Bennett met with Walter Reed’s commanding general, who loved the idea. But Bennett had some ground rules first, all designed to keep the focus on the troops alone:

1. No press on the trip, lest the soldiers’ day of pampering devolve into a media circus.

2. No politicians either, because, said Bennett, “I don’t want some idiot making this trip into a campaign photo op.”

3. No Pentagon suits on board, otherwise the soldiers would be too busy saluting superiors to relax.

The general agreed to the conditions, and Bennett realized he had a problem on his hands. “I had to actually make this thing happen,” he laughs.

Over the next months, he recruited owners of 15 other sumptuous rail cars from around the country – these people tend to know each other – into lending their vehicles for the day. The name of their temporary train? The Liberty Limited.

Amtrak volunteered to transport the cars to D.C. – where they’d be coupled together for the round-trip to Philly – then back to their owners later.

Conrail offered to service the Liberty while it was in Philly. And SEPTA drivers would bus the disabled soldiers 200 yards from the train track to the football stadium before the game.

A benefactor from the War College ponied up 100 seats to the game – on the 50-yard-line – and lunch in a hospitality suite.

Corporate donors filled, for free and without asking for publicity, goodie bags for attendees:

From Woodrich, stadium blankes

From Wal-Mart, digital cameras

From Nikon, field glasses

From GEAR, down jackets

There was booty not just for the soldiers, but for their guests, too, since each was allowed to bring a friend or family member. The Marines declined the offer. “They voted not to take guests with them so they could take more Marines,” says Levin, choking up at the memory.

Bennett’s an emotional guy, so he was worried about how he’d react to meeting the 88 troops and guests at D.C.’s Union Station, where the trip originated. Some GIs were missing limbs. Others were wheelchair-bound or accompanied by medical personnel for the day. “They made it easy to be with them,” he says. “They were all smiles on the ride to Philly. Not an ounce of self-pity from any of them. They’re so full of life and determination.”

At the stadium, the troops reveled in the game, recalls Bennett. Not even Army’s loss to Navy could deflate the group’s rollicking mood.

Afterward, it was back to the train and yet another gourmet meal. “Heros get hungry,” says Levin, before returning to Walter Reed and Bethesda. “The day was spectacular,” says Levin. “It was all about those kids. It was awesome to be part of it.”

The most poignant moment for the Levins was when 11 Marines hugged them goodbye, then sang the Marine Hymn on the platform at Union Station.

“One of the guys was blind, but he said, ‘I can’t see you, but man, you must be beautiful!'” says Bennett. “I got a lump so big in my throat that I couldn’t even answer him.”

It’s been three weeks, but the Levins and their guests are still feeling the day’s love. “My Christmas came early,” says Levin, who is Jewish and who loves the Christmas season. “I can’t describe the feeling in the air.” Maybe it is hope.

As one guest wrote in a thank you note to Bennett and Vivian, “The fond memories generated last Saturday will sustain us all – whatever the future may bring.”

God bless the Levins.

And God bless the troops, every one.