Wednesday morning showers didn’t deter hundreds of veterans from coming to Fox River Grove to enjoy a day out of the hospital.
The 30th annual picnic for veterans, hosted by Cary-Grove AMVETS Pearl Harbor Memorial Post 245, was held at Lions Park in Fox River Grove.
Despite the early rain, this is a great turnout,” picnic chairman Bob Janu said. “There’s probably more [veterans] here than last year.”
Hospitalized veterans came from Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago and the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines. After getting off the buses, the first group of veterans was greeted by volunteers holding umbrellas to protect the veterans from the heavy rain.
“The picnic shows that they want to get out,” Janu said. “They’re in the hospital a lot and this allows them to get out and relax.”
The rain cleared about an hour into the event, allowing veterans to enjoy outdoor activities such as bags, fishing and pontoon boat rides. Food and drinks also were offered during the event, along with karaoke and bingo.
Navy veteran Walter McKinley, who came from Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, said this was his second time attending the picnic.
“I think this event is fantastic,” McKinley said. “It makes me feel so good to see people who appreciate veterans here. I really look forward to coming out here.”
During the event, McKinley recited a poem he wrote called “I am a Veteran” in front of an audience.
“It tells people a little of what it’s like being a veteran,” McKinley said. “I recite it every chance I get, and I wrote it when I got home from Vietnam.”
Event volunteers included Boy Scouts Troop 161 in Cary and members from various AMVETS posts from across the state.
“We’ve been doing this forever, and this is just a way to give back to those who have been giving to the country over the years,” said Bruce Domoto, an assistant scoutmaster of Boy Scouts Troop 161. “I know our boys appreciate it. They get to spend some time with the vets, and they really enjoy it.”
Post Cmdr. Gary Foster said the event started 30 years ago with about 40 veterans in attendance.
“This picnic got to be about 600 veterans at one point, so it became pretty large,” Foster said. “And I think we’re somewhere in that category today, even with the inclement weather.”
Foster thanked all the veterans who came out Wednesday and all the volunteers who helped make the 30th anniversary picnic possible.
“I also have to give a special thanks to the Illinois AMVETS Service Foundation, because without their help and all the things that they do, this would not be possible because the Illinois [AMVETS] Service Foundation gives us a $5,000 grant to hold this picnic,” Foster said.