Monday, November 16, 2015

Paws4Vets 2015

Last year in November our friend Bill E. told us about an event his daughter, Susan P., was putting on in Fredericksburg for Veterans….something about dogs.  We weren’t really too interested but because of our friendship with Bill we said we would come out and see what it was all about.  We found out that another friend, Ron L. was going to provide the music for the event!  We convinced a couple other friends to come out so at least we knew we could hang out with friends and listen to cool music….it wouldn’t be a wasted day. 

As the day unfolded we began to understand the event much better and the impact it had on individual Veterans, in this case, Walter P.   Walter is a Vietnam Vet that lives with PTSD and since he has been coupled with ‘Jackson’, his service dog, he is better able to cope with his demons.  The “Dog Walk” helps to pay back the organization, Paws4Vets that provided Jackson for Walter.  The dogs are given to the Veterans but they agree to have ‘fundraisers’ to pay back AND pay forward the many thousand dollar cost of the dogs.  The ‘fundraising’ part of the event was a small fee to walk your dog on a marked out route and the proceeds from donated ‘silent auction’ items.  We had a great time that day and after experiencing the reason for the event we decided to figure out how our group, Cruisin For Heroes, could partner with Susan to help her next year. 

Last year’s event was on November 8th….and the first of the 323 emails for this year’s event began on November 9, 2014!  We decided to see if we could partner with the local chapter of Rolling Thunder Inc, Virginia Region 3, since they are always looking for ways to directly support Veteran’s needs.  We had a meeting with their rep., Mac M., and the event began to take shape.  We had meetings with Susan, Stafford County, Vendors and other ‘car people’.  We wanted to help Susan cast a larger net to have more spectators come out and support what they are doing.  Susan decided to use Curtis Memorial Park for its location and sprawling, woodsy layout.  The biggest drawback from the event in ’14 was the time of year was very chilly….it was sunny but cold.  Susan would change that for this year by having it on October 3, 2015.

The week before the event, hurricane Joaquin made its way up the East coast and met with a storm system from the north.  The two systems would collide to produce massive quantities of rain in our area.  Some coastal flooding and many streams & rivers would rise suddenly.   The event would have to be postponed….never a good thing.  Susan met with the County to see what could be done and if they would lose the $350 deposit for the park.  The only other time the park was available for her use was….November 14….in the cooler part of the year….yup!  So we all scrambled to change the ads on the internet, newspapers, radio and flyers.  It was a massive effort but it’s what had to be done.  So Susan, Rolling Thunder, the vendors….and Cruisin For Heroes began sweating out the weather for Nov. 14th.

Some say that in Virginia if you don’t like the weather one day….just wait 24 hours and it will change….there is some validity in that.  The weather during the week leading up to the 14th was unseasonably warm but on the 12th the temps started dropping….and dropping.  The 14th would be sunny but cold.  The cool weather would be dealt with by the participants but the needed spectators would stay away.  Attendance by spectators was optional, it was mandatory for us!  Brrrrrrrrrrrr…..

The day broke with the sun rays filtering through the trees, as advertised but with no wind.  It wasn’t too bad if one could be in the sun.  Otherwise it was very cold.  Then about 10Am the wind began….which made the chill factor a minus 263 degrees.  All the vendors set up and the people with dogs began to trickle in to the event.  The Fredericksburg Classic and Muscle Car Club came out with a large group of its members to support the event.  Some other ‘car’ friends braved the bone chilling weather to join with us too.  Then the Rolling Thunder motorcycles rumbled in.  The Princess & I rode for over 40 years and know how much fun it is riding in very cold temps….with a 60 mph chill factor! These guys & gals could have stayed home and been nice and cozy….but it’s not in their nature to abandon a fellow Veteran.  Thank You….Rolling Thunder riders, for supporting the event!

The ‘theme’ of this year’s event was 50’s Rock-N-Roll….and some, like Bill & Jo-Ann, would really fit the part….to include driving a ’57 Chevy!  Some of the dog owners would dress the dogs in 50’s attire; you have to check the pictures out.  Elvis (aka Curly Cue the clown) joined us to keep the event rolling and led the dancing later in the day.  Ron L. donated his time and equipment to DJ the music all day long….even though he should have stayed in bed and nurse his sniffles.  The vendor that was selling coffee was very busy and they soon would be feeding the participants too. 

One of the things we suggested to Susan was to have more things in the silent auction that were not just dog related this year.  I think it worked!  Some of the people bought stuff they really didn’t need….but wanted anyway.  I think Bill B. needs to bring his trailer the next time we have one of these events…..Debbie accepted the challenge to ‘win it all’….?  I never knew that auctions were supposed to be a challenge….silly me….  I overheard a biker couple talking about an auction item, something about it wouldn’t fit in the saddle bags….I interrupted and said we could deliver it for them.  By the look on HIS face I don’t think I’ll get a Christmas card from them this year….  Arlene finally found the perfect, just right thing that she absolutely needed….it was so big that Ron L. had to haul it away for Lou….check the pictures.

As the day’s events unfolded it came time for the testimonies of the Veterans that have service dogs….their stories are heart wrenching and victorious at the same time.  These very special people need & deserve our support.  They dutifully put on the cloth of our Country and did our bidding to protect the American way….it’s our turn to protect and support them any way, any time we can. 

After the testimonies Susan had some presentations recognizing those that helped with the event.  Then Mac gave Susan a check for $500 for Paws4Vets from Rolling Thunder Inc, Virginia Chapter 3….how cool is that!?  Then they had the contest for the best 50’s dog costumes….that was fun too.  Then it was time for the 50/50 drawing followed by the silent auction winners.

Except for the low spectator turn out because of the cold weather I think the event was a success.  Next year I hope Susan plans the event for June or July….  Be sure to check the pictures, there are over 200 but it captures the character of the event….try to join us next year….you won’t regret it.

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