Featuring Erika Stone and S.O.S. Ride
Betty Ekmanian Smith moved into the Sun City community in 2007 after retiring. Retirement was too quiet following the active and vibrant career-driven lifestyle Betty was accustomed to, but that changed when a compelling story would put meaning back into the mix, launching Betty’s fulfilling endeavour with local charity: Soldier’s Organized Services- Ride (S.O.S.Ride).
Years ago, Betty began her career as a secretary with the L.A. Dodgers and vividly remembers the electrifying feel of stadiums filled with cheering crowds. As her career progressed, she traveled with many notable people, catching the eye of multiple baseball stars. One dropped to his knee and asked Betty for her hand in marriage: Dick Smith. Their romance felt like a movie script as together they welcomed their son Richard into the world. Over the years, their lives took different paths; Dick focused on his baseball career and Betty continued to flourish as a loving mother and built her sensational career with the Western Hockey League, L.A. Kings, and L.A. Lakers.
Upon retirement, Betty felt something was missing from her life. She recognized the importance of setting goals and ambitions even in retirement. “I wanted to volunteer and get involved with something meaningful,” she explains, so she volunteered at a local thrift store whose proceeds fund Erica Stone’s charity S.O.S.Ride. When Erica and Betty met there was an instant connection and Betty was inspired by Erika’s story of what started her then sprouting organization.
One evening in 2007, Erica was finishing her shift at the Palm Springs International Airport. The hustle and bustle of travellers had died down as the end of the day approached. During a quiet moment Erica spotted a limping Marine with a waist-high cast struggling with two heavy duffle bags. She went over to assist him, and they struck up a conversation.
The Marine told her that he had been shot during combat operations in Afghanistan and was blasted off a rooftop lookout. He was on his way back to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-Nine Palms and needed to catch a bus to the base. Erica’s heart sank. She knew he had already missed the last bus as he struggled to maneuver through the airport. No other transportation was financially feasible for him, so the Marine was preparing to sleep overnight at the airport. Erica could not let that happen and she insisted on giving him a ride. This was the spark that started her charity. “Marines come to Palm Desert for intense training for non-official duty orders, otherwise considered personal time – so government doesn’t pay for their transportation,” she explains.
Getting more and more involved, Betty quickly became a key ambassador and enthusiastic advocate for S.O.S.Ride. “Anyone would pray to have someone like Betty on their team, she has the skill to talk to anyone,” Erica beams. Through these experiences, Betty has found meaning and passion, making her retirement years some of the best ever.
To support Betty and Erica in their mission providing our military personnel with crucial ride services, S.O.S.Ride is always seeking financial support plus enthusiastic, friendly people to get involved either by being involved with fundraising, event organizing, golf tournaments, or driving.
The best way to donate or get involved is to mail to: SOLIDERS ORGANIZED SERVICES – Ride: P.O. BOX 7007 La Quinta 92248.
Donate online (via paypal) at: sosride.org/donate
Your donations cover expenses such as insurance, gas, fundraiser events, and charitable expansions. With your help, Betty and Erica will be able to offer rides to our military in need for many years – showing our service men and women the respect, admiration and care they truly deserve. It gave new meaning to Betty Ekmanian’s retirement, and it might do the same for you.