By Heather Graves
DE PERE – Voyageur Park in De Pere played host to Picnic for Patriots Saturday, Sept. 14, a family-friendly event that brought together members of the community to raise funds for 4th H.O.O.A.H. (Helping Out Our American Heroes), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans, service members overseas and their families.
“This event was initially created to bring the community together to show their support of our local veterans and raise funds to further assist our servicemen and their families in Wisconsin,” said event organizer Chelsea Kocken. “With the deployment of so many local Wisconsin National Guardsmen, the picnic gained a dual purpose to bring the families of those soldiers together and enjoy a fun day with one another.”
Tammy Hardwick, chapter president, said nearly 400 Wisconsin Guardsmen – including three board members of 4th H.O.O.A.H. – are currently deployed.
A boot with the picture and story of a veteran who was lost to suicide sat center on all tables at the picnic.
The day included live music by Pat Schorr, food from Smoked to the Bone, raffle items – including a football autographed by Davante Adams – and games and activities for all ages.
Hardwick said thanks to VFW-Post 2037, the families of service members currently deployed overseas ate for free.
Attendees also got the chance to prepare care packages and make cards to be sent to troops overseas.
More than a dozen care packages and even more letters will make their way to local service members serving overseas thanks to the efforts of those who came out to show their support.
“It’s been a steady stream of people all day,” Hardwick said.
Hardwick said the care packages included everything from beef jerky and gum to books and toiletries.
“4th H.O.O.A.H. also covered the cost of shipping for families who wished to send a personal package to a loved one,” Hardwick said.
Members of 4th H.O.O.A.H. will be back at it in mid-October for Pedaling For a Purpose, a 15-mile bike ride to raise money for local veterans.
The ride will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Bar on Lime Kiln.
The ride follows the East River Trail to Graystone Ale House and back. A corn hole tournament will follow the ride at 1:30 p.m.
Then on Nov. 9, 4th H.O.O.A.H. is hosting the Seventh Annual Veteran Suicide Awareness Ruck March.
The 20-mile ruck, which sets out from the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay at 7 a.m., represents the number of veterans lost to suicide every day.
Hardwick said that although it’s not a requirement, participants can carry a rucksack or backpack that weighs 20 pounds in remembrance of the 20 veterans.
Last year more than 1,000 veterans, active duty service members and civilians participated in the event, and organizers expect a great turnout this year as well.
“4th H.O.O.A.H WI continues to see so much support from our community, this is another way for us to grow and build awareness,” Kocken said.
More information on any of these events, or on 4th H.O.O.A.H. itself, can be found online at hooahwi.org.