TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The veteran-led non-profit Project Dynamo, which has deployed for rescue missions around the world, hosted its first fundraising gala Thursday night at Armature Works.
“My family’s all together and I know if he doesn’t cry, I’m going to,” said Denise Kavanaugh, who flew in with her husband from St. Louis to support Project Dynamo.
The Kavanaugh’s pregnant daughter-in-law and young granddaughter were visiting family in Ukraine when Russia began its invasion in February 2022.
“Some of the first phone calls I make was to the government,” Adam Kavanaugh said. “How do we get our family out of there. They have no answers.”
Days after the war began, Kavanaugh got a call from Project Dynamo founder Bryan Stern.
“He said give her this phone number, have her call me, you and your son get to Romania and we’ll get your daughter-in-law and your grandbaby in by her second birthday,” he said.
As Stern promised, Kavanaugh and his son reunited with them at the Ukraine-Romania border on the little girl’s second birthday.
“And seeing Bryan bring her across, it wasn’t an easy task to get her to that spot, was, I can’t even describe it,” Kavanaugh said. “It’s just amazing. Project Dynamo is amazing.”
Since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas, Project Dynamo has brought hundreds of Americans home.
Stern returned Wednesday from Egypt, just in time for his non-profit’s “Red, White and Rescued Gala.”
“I still have sand in my toes from the desert,” Stern said. “We’re actively conducting operations today. We did an operation in the field last night.”
To date, since beginning operations in September 2021 after the U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan, Project Dynamo has rescued more than 6,800 Americans from conflict zones in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
“There are Americans who are in captivity right now and we can get them,” Stern said during his remarks at the gala. “I’ll die trying or we’ll get them.”
With more missions planned in Israel, Afghanistan and Ukraine, the Kavanaughs are forever grateful for the one that got their loved ones out of harm’s way.
“I love you Bryan, and thank you for bringing my family home,” Denise said.
Stern has told News Channel 8 multiple times he wishes he could shut down Project Dynamo, but now he said the need is greater than ever to rescue Americans overseas.
There were about 600 people at the gala and all the money raised will help Project Dynamo continue its mission of bringing Americans home.