Legionnaire candy givers; Free LMU men’s basketball game

Playa del Rey photographer Bill Ballerini and his mother, Kathy Cooley, of Ballerini Cooley Studios are giving back this holiday season.

The pair has been working with Hearts Apart, a national organization that provides soon-to-be-deployed military personnel with pictures of their spouses and children.

“Two weeks ago we shot another heroic young Marine, Adam Thompson, his wife, Erika, and their daughter, Keddy,” said Ballerini, who added that the photography duo has been photographing one or two military families each month. “They have a pretty cool story and are really a great family.”

The Thompsons, originally from South Dakota, were high school sweethearts, and Adam recently left for a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan – his third since he enlisted in the U.S. Marines three years ago.

Adam is a combat engineer and his main job is route clearance.

“This involves driving large armored vehicles slowing down roads searching and digging up explosives,” said his wife. “They’re referred to as ‘super grunts.’ His job is extremely dangerous and causes me great anxiety. On the flip side, I am so gracious for all we have because without the Corps, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity because it is very rare to get a photo of Adam in uniform. He is very humble and does not use his personal appearance for gain or attention. He is a beautiful and committed family man.”

Ballerini and Cooley say they were moved by the story.

“You will not find a young family that better embodies the commitment to excellence and service that U.S. military families have,” Ballerini said. “For us to be able to spend time with this loving family was truly a blessing. We wish Adam Godspeed and a safe and successful tour.”

Ballerini Cooley Studios gave the Thompsons, and all of their Hearts Apart families, the “real deal” photo shoot, including wardrobe direction, hair, makeup, and styling. The fun day of shooting included a lunch, a lot of laughs, and the family got to keep all of the images, Ballerini said.

Hearts Apart also prints the photographs on waterproof and durable bi-folded cards, which fit securely in the uniform pocket of each service man or woman so they can always carry the photos of their loved ones while on deployment. The vinyl material keeps the photos from being crushed or damaged by water.

For more information about Hearts Apart or to talk to Ballerini Cooley Studios about a military family that could benefit from the program, please call (310) 301-1576.


Recently, a group from American Legion Post 177 delivered a five-pound box of See’s candy to each nurse station and each family staying at the Fisher House at the Westwood Veterans Hospital.

Similar to Ronald McDonald, Fisher House provides a home away from home for military families to be close to loved ones during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury. Robbie Robinson, commander of American Legion Post 177, said the post bought the candy and delivered it to each nurse station to thank the nurses for the work they are doing to help veterans recover.

Carrie Bramdlin, director of recreation, thanked Robinson and the legionnaires for their constant help to the patients and to the staff. The legionnaires have made it their mission to assist veterans at the hospital, providing Christmas cards to patients who do not receive any mail, holding a fundraiser, buying new underwear for the veterans and holding two barbecues a year, where 500 hamburgers and hot dogs are served to patients and to homeless vets.

Over the past year, the post has donated everything from DVDs and clothing to flowers and books.

For more information or to participate in the post’s next effort to support veterans, please contact Curt Curtiss at (310) 645-8989.


With the support of Wells Fargo, Sodexo, and the LMU Family of Schools, on Dec. 27, the athletic department of Loyola Marymount University will be opening up the doors of Gersten Pavilion for a free men’s basketball game as a thank-you to the community.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and tip-off versus Vanguard University is at 6 p.m.

The game is open to the public, and there are no tickets, RSVP, or purchases required.

Additionally, hot dogs will be sold for just $1 a piece that night.