Photo Release -- Eckrich Hosts Most Suspenseful Moment at Michigan State Football Home Opener

Contestant Throws Pass for Chance to Share $1 Million With Five Military Families

Eckrich honors five military families during Michigan State Home Opener

All Receive FREE Groceries for One Year

LISLE, Ill., Sept. 14, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In front of over 70,000 screaming Michigan State football fans, five military families anxiously watched as Sara Dolmetsch, a grand prize winner of a consumer sweepstakes held by Eckrich and Meijer, attempted to complete a pass through a standing 15-inch target on the field of Spartan Stadium. Although the pass just missed short, it didn't lessen the day's purpose of honoring the deserving military families who didn't walk away disappointed.

A photo accompanying this release is available at

The five families, all guests of Eckrich, the makers of naturally hardwood smoked sausage and savory deli meats, were surprised earlier that day at what turned into the tailgate of a lifetime. With the smell of fall in the air and naturally hardwood smoked sausage on the grill, Eckrich presented each family with a gift of one year of free groceries at Meijer, a value worth over $13,000, courtesy of Eckrich. Each family also received tickets to the night's game vs. the visiting Oregon Ducks.

The shocked and happy families were then introduced to Dolmetsch, who was then surprised herself when told that she would be throwing the on-field pass for the opportunity to not only win herself a half-million-dollar annuity but also up to $100,000 toward the home mortgage of each military family.

The military families, chosen by Operation Homefront, a national non-profit whose mission is to build strong, stable and secure military families and Eckrich partner since 2012, had no idea of the day's events when they were invited to the tailgate. While they were on the field to view the attempt, they were also invited to be a part of a special on-field ceremony to recognize their sacrifice and gift from Eckrich and Meijer.

Saturday night's celebration is part of an ongoing campaign by Eckrich to honor, thank and support military families. Honored were Jeremy Hirata and his family from Saint Clair Shores, Mich., Abdul Deen and his family from Indianapolis, Ind., Cecil Tuggle and his family from Berea, Ky., Jeffrey Cusimano and his family from Rineyville, Ky., and Ryan Byberg and his family from Mt. Pleasant, Mich. The families were truly amazed by the day's events.

"We have a wonderful relationship with Eckrich," said John I. Pray, President and CEO, Operation Homefront, on behalf of the families. "We have done so many wonderful things together, including what happened today. The whole purpose is about taking care of military families and that's a special part of our relationship with Eckrich. Today they helped these families by giving them free groceries for a year and then an opportunity to potentially provide them some relief on their mortgage. I applaud Eckrich for everything they do to support Operation Homefront and our families."

Eckrich, in its fourth year of partnership with Operation Homefront, recently surpassed $1 million in donations since 2012.

"Today's event is part of our national campaign to recognize military families as Eckrich kicks off a new college football season," said Chuck Gitkin, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Smithfield Foods. "It's been an exciting day, and although the pass just missed, we made sure everyone walked off the field winners. It was our privilege to thank these inspiring families and give each of them one year of free groceries at Meijer. For Sarah's effort on the field and representing our military families, we are also proud to give her free groceries for one year as well. Again, we can't thank our military families enough and hope they enjoyed their special moment at the big game in Lansing."

For more information about Eckrich please visit Eckrich is a brand of Smithfield Foods.

About Eckrich

Founded by Peter Eckrich in 1894, Eckrich has a rich heritage starting from a small meat market in Fort Wayne, Ind. Through it all, Eckrich meats have been recognized for their great taste and supreme quality, craftsmanship, care and pride. For more information, visit

About Smithfield Foods

Smithfield Foods is a $15 billion global food company and the world's largest pork processor and hog producer. In the United States, the company is also the leader in numerous packaged meats categories with popular brands including Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Farmland®, Armour®, Cook's®, John Morrell®, Gwaltney®, Nathan's Famous®, Kretschmar®, Margherita®, Curly's®, Carando® and Healthy Ones®. Smithfield Foods is committed to providing good food in a responsible way and maintains robust animal care, community involvement, employee safety, environmental and food safety and quality programs. For more information, visit

About Operation Homefront

A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 2,500 volunteers with nationwide presence who provide emergency and other financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Operation Homefront has provided assistance to thousands of military families since its inception in 2002. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity watchdog groups, nationally, 92 percent of Operation Homefront's expenditures go directly to programs that provide support to our military families. For more information, go to

The photo is also available via AP PhotoExpress.

CONTACT: Jeff Dennison Breaking Limits for Eckrich 2137 South Blvd., Suite 200 Charlotte, N.C. 28203 Cell: 704-252-3356 E-Mail:

Source:Smithfield Foods, Inc.