It's no secret that veterans face many emotional, financial and practical barriers, like transportation – which is getting extra attention at this year's fourth annual “Get Wet For A Vet” fundraiser.
Response to the 2015 affair – which raised $15,000 -- has prompted organizers to set a higher goal for this year, as event committee member and treasurer Linn Morrow notes.
“Last year, we ordered 700 (commemorative) T-shirts, and we went through all of them,” said Morrow. “This year, we're ordering 900 shirts, and our goal is $25,000. Hopefully, we'll get close to that.“
In another change from past practice, the proceeds will go to three different local organizations.
“We've chosen three different charities,” said Morrow. “Our main focus will be to help purchase a DAV (Disabled American Veteran) van – we just felt that we could help most with the van, because a lot of veterans don't have any transportation to get to their doctor's appointments.”
This year's leading beneficiary will be the Disabled American Veterans Transportation Network, which helps provide transportation to the nearest VA (Veterans Affairs) hospital, in Fort Wayne – as the committee observed, in a fundraising letter sent out last spring.
“Many of our local veterans depend on this transportation, and the South Bend area is overwhelmed with demand,” stated the letter. “They (the network) are in need of a second vehicle, and we intend to help them with that!”
This year's other designated charities include the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Michiana Chapter 14-2, and the Robert L. Miller Senior Veteran's Center, in South Bend, which has been a beneficiary in the past.
The association helps local veterans “with building wheelchair ramps at their homes, and also, providing meals – Christmas meals, things like that,” said Morrow.
The group has also hosted and delivered holiday meals for homeless veterans, as well as adopting children of veterans at Christmas, and providing car repairs for a veteran in need, according to the committee's letter.
The center, which has received $41,000 from past fundraisers, focuses on helping homeless veterans gain permanent housing through education, and empowerment.
The centerpieces of the event include a dunk tank – with three balls for $5 – and a 50-mile motorcycle ride that will begin and end at VFW Post 360, 1307 E. Jefferson, Mishawaka, IN, according to Morrow.
Riders get one stop along the way, at VFW Post 1954, 66992 Tamarack Road, North Liberty, IN, “and they'll come back to VFW 360,” said Morrow. “It'll be all country roads.”
Registration is $15 per rider, and $10 per passenger. For those attendees who aren't planning on riding, walk-in admission is available for $10 apiece – which is good for a plate of food, a T-shirt, and admission to the other events, including live music from Marcus Clingerman, the Bobby Lee Caldwell Band, Joe Feingold, MGB, Red Alert, and South of Sorrow.
“You don't have to have a motorcycle to come,” said Morrow. “The bands will be starting at about 2:30 p.m., after the opening ceremonies – they're all volunteer local entertainment.”
Other featured activities will include tip boards, raffles and a cornhole tournament that costs $5 to enter, with 100 percent payback, said Morrow.
“It's double elimination – there's boards, you throw bean bags, and you try to get 'em in the hole,” she added.
Those who can't make it out can make donations or send them to any 1st Source Bank branch (under the account name, “Get Wet For A Vet”), or give them personally to any committee. To donate money or merchandise for use as raffle items, contact event secretary Jen Parks at (574) 292-0426.
And, whatever activity or feature draws you this year, organizers want you to keep one thing in mind, above all else, as the letter states: “We will be helping three great organizations in hopes to affect more lives.”
Live: 2 p.m. Saturday, August 6. VFW Post 360, 1307 E. Jefferson, Mishawaka, IN. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. Kickstands must be up at 11 a.m. $15 per rider ($10 per passenger), or $10 per walk-in entry. 21 and older. Breakfast available for $3 a plate.
All proceeds benefit the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Michiana Chapter 14-2, Disabled American Veterans Transportation Network, and Robert L. Miller Senior Veteran's Center
More Information: https://www.facebook.com/getwetforavet/, https://www.disability.gov/resource/disabled-american-veterans-dav-transportation-network/