It felt like a celebration. The hall was lit up with white and red fairy lights. Shiny, heart-shaped balloons were tied to the Mason jars of flowers. Red tinsel and glittery hearts created table centerpieces. Familiar fond tunes wafted through the loud speakers, setting the mood. And when the Veterans walked through the door of this Topton American Legion turned Valentine’s Day fairyland, they were greeted with a warm hug, a “Thank you for coming,” and a red carnation was pinned to their shirt. River House PA wanted everyone who was attending the Veteran’s Benefit to know who our heroes are. And there were thirty of them there that night. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf and the Iraq & Afghanistan Wars, from 70’s to their early 20’s, men and women were represented.
Besides celebrating our love for one another, our Veterans, and River House PA, the organization staged a Silent Auction of amazing gifts from even more amazing donors and artists, to help fund and fuel the non-profits’ outdoor programs. Forty prizes in all were arranged on tables. Some had the actual artwork, others such as gift certificates had posters illustrating the prize, looking a little like middle school science fair posters but getting the point across none the less!
The Legion’s Auxiliary crafted a delicious spaghetti dinner with meatballs, sausage, salad, and garlic bread, with monstrous trays of fresh fruit, veggies and dip, assorted cheese and crackers (donated by Harry Boyer of Boyer’s Markets) to appease hunger before the main meal. Cakes, brownies, homemade cookies and coffee, as well as a fine assortment of Valentine’s Day candy from the Port Clinton Peanut Shop graced the dessert table.
While the enthusiastic bidding went on, Veterans were meeting other Veterans, introducing each other asking when they served, while civilians were doing the same. When Danny Stein from the 175thAirborne Ranger Battalion met Mike Schnur from the Vietnam’s Ranger Battalion, they locked eyes and shook hands and said, “It’s a great honor.” Danny said to me, “That Vet is a fuckin’ hero. I mean it.” It was all good. We even had female Ilene Henderson attend, a combat Veteran from both Iraq and Afghanistan, who is currently hiking the entire 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail with her mother. They were our proud guests at the Benefit and drove all the way from Virginia to be here with her comrades and friends of River House.
Speaking of driving far, attendees to the event came in from Virginia, Maryland, New York and New Jersey and even Ohio, which is saying a lot as there was snow predicted, white out conditions, high winds and very low temps. It did not stop them. They came and supported this great cause and these wonderful people- our Veterans. Steve & Becky Adamson spent the weekend at Cindy & Todd’s house, the parents of fallen Airborne Ranger and AT 2,000 Miler, Zach “Shady” Adamson, whom a Utube video was made of a Memorial Hike in VA last year. (A Journey of Remembrance – YouTube:13http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOwRs3YNms0). Becky & Steve met Danny Stein, River House’s Poster Boy, who served with their son in both Iraq and Afghanistan and had never met before this. The meeting was very sweet and touching. One hundred and forty people braved the elements to attend and bids were high, bringing in over $3,000 for the Auction Items and making about $1500 from ticket sales. A tremendous, unexpected generous income on such an iffy winter night.
The only down side was only a handful got to dance (the kids!) for an hour and it was horrendous driving going home, with white out blizzard conditions across the Lehigh Valley. A drunk from the bar rammed Todd’s truck in the Legion parking lot but the hit and run driver is on video and the state trooper can find out who it is. All in all, it was a tremendous night and we were all deeply touched by everyones’ generosity and support.
Next event up is the monthly Wednesday hike for Veterans, followed by a pot luck and Brainstorming session for Veterans & Friends of River House alike- March 18th. Only a few days after that, River House PA is staging a Spring Equinox Celebration Benefit- a House Concert with Native American Band, Spirit Wind…March 21st. Seating is VERY limited but tickets are on sale now. Thank you all and please send some Veterans our way who could use a little time in the lap of nature.