By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE — The Wisconsin Disabled American Veterans Russell Leicht Chapter 3, based in De Pere, will be able to help a few more veterans, thanks to a combined donation of over $50,000 from the Green Bay Gamblers hockey team and Bart Starr Plaza Tailgate Party.
The money will go to fund the chapter’s transportation program, which takes veterans by van from their homes to their medical appointments.
“Whether it’s Appleton, Milwaukee, Iron Mountain, or wherever the Veterans Administration assigns them a medical appointment, we drive them,” said Matt Kempainen, state officer with the Wisconsin Disabled American Veterans and member of multiple committees in the local chapter.
He’s also a veteran, having served three tours of duty overseas, including two deployments to Afghanistan and one to Iraq.
The Gamblers Military & Veterans Salute fundraiser, which has been held each year since 2013, donated $40,000 that it raised at its 2018 event in December, from ticket sales, an auction of players’ jerseys and helmets, and sponsors’ goal pledges.
Since it started, the Gamblers Military & Veterans Salute event has raised almost $150,000 for the Russell Leicht Chapter of Disabled American Veterans.
Animal Referral Center is a primary sponsor of the event, and over two dozen sponsors contributed, according to Kempainen.
The Bart Starr Plaza Tailgate Party, a tailgate party event in front of the Resch Center held on game days, donated $10,200 it raised from Packers game day raffles and other sales.
“All money raised goes right back to the community,” Kempainen said of the DAV. “It helps veterans who have fallen on hard times, who are having trouble paying their rent or making car payments, or paying utilities, and we help get homeless vets off the streets in cold times.”
Wisconsin has 44 chapters of Disabled American Veterans.
Most don’t have the resources or partnerships that Chapter 3 has, he said, adding that since July, his chapter has given around $40,000 in veterans assistance to veterans in need.
In Wisconsin, the DAV transports an average of 40,000 veterans to their medical appointments per year.
About a quarter or more of that number comes from Brown County, which has the second-largest veteran population in the state, next to Milwaukee, according to Kempainen.
Statewide, the DAV’s volunteers put about 900,000 miles per year on a pool of about 30 handicap accessible vans.
“We take veterans to Milwaukee five days a week,” Kempainen said. “People thank us for our service, and we do it because that’s who we are, but if it weren’t for the businesses and things like Bart Starr Plaza, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We can’t thank the Resch Center and PMI enough.”