‘Game-changing’ Patriots Initiative to launch in Rancho Santa Fe


By Karen Billing

A hot air balloon received special clearance from the RSF Association Sept. 5 to take off from a Rancho Santa Fe home on Tuesday, Sept. 17, representing the launch of the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation’s new initiative to support the military.

The balloon launch will occur at a celebration of the Foundation’s new Patriots Initiative that chairman Greg Hillgren said will change the way San Diego and the nation deals with supporting military families.

“We think this is going to be an extraordinary thing and this is going to be a major event for the Foundation,” Hillgren said. “The Patriots Initiative will be a game changer.”

The Association’s regulatory code states that landings and takeoffs of aircrafts are prohibited with the exception of emergencies and special events. Hillgren said it would have been a lot easier to do this event outside the Covenant and outside of any regulations, but it was important to hold the event in the Ranch.

“Part of the reason to specifically hold the launch party here is to send the message that since the beginning of the Foundation, this is home,” Hillgren said, noting that the Foundation recently had to move its offices outside of the Covenant to the Rancho Santa Fe Plaza. “We want to send the message that we’re still engaged here in the Covenant.”

The Patriots Initiative evolved out of the Foundation’s Armed Forces Interest Group, supporting the few who have made the sacrifice and have “answered the call.”

“Less than 1 percent of the American population will ever put on a uniform to defend this country,” Hillgren said.

Hillgren said many military families face substantial financial challenges and the Foundation aims to become a “clearinghouse” for all the organizations out there that support the active duty military, their families, wounded warriors and veterans.

Through the Patriots Initiative, the Foundation has evaluated hundreds of organizations that serve the military and the end result will be a directory of all the organizations that have met the Patriots Initiative’s criteria. Donors will know that their investment is well directed toward any of the organizations in the directory.

On its web site, the Patriots Initiative mission statement says, “The Patriots Initiative enlists support for America’s all-volunteer service members, wounded warriors, veterans and their families by providing the most reliable, comprehensive and effective resource of information and programs available to philanthropic donors.”

The balloon will launch around 6:30 p.m. from Hillgren’s property on Las Colinas. For more information about the Patriots Initiative, visit