QUINCY -- More than 70 local veterans so far have signed up for the Heroes at Heartland event scheduled for Aug. 5 in Pike County.
The event is for military veterans and active duty military personnel along with their families. It will offer a free day of outdoor adventures at Harpole's Heartland Lodge, including off-road riding, trap shooting, archery and other activities.
Participants also will be treated to a barbecue lunch.
The purpose of the event is to honor veterans for their service to the nation "and to show our vets how important they are to us," said Marcel Wagner, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation, which is organizing the event in cooperation with other local sponsors.
Wagner said a secondary purpose for the event is to begin to establish a database of veterans in the local area so the veterans can be contacted in the future if job openings arise or if other special events are scheduled for veterans, such as Fishing for Freedom tournaments, Honor Flight trips, military-themed parades, tiny home construction projects and other programs aimed at helping vets.
In conjunction with this effort, Wagner said, "The Herald-Whig and WGEM are going to have a ‘We Salute You' program, which will be an ongoing effort to really develop a robust database of the veterans who are in our region."
Plans for the Heroes at Heartland event were initially announced in early June, and a website was established -- heroesatheartland.us -- to let veterans sign up and learn more about the event.
"The response has been very, very strong," Wagner said. Not only have more than 70 veterans so far expressed an interest in taking part, but a growing number of local companies and organizations have stepped forward to offer their help with the program.
"We've had a lot of people step up and say they want to be part of it," Wagner said.
"Farm and Home is going to sponsor a trapshooting event. The Boy Scouts are going to be down there with archery and some other events for the kids. Lunch will be provided by the Butcher Block here in Quincy. Dot Foods is going to have a couple of bounce houses for the kids and things like that."
Many other groups and individuals have been pitching in with financial support or offering equipment needed for the various activities being planned. For example, organizers were soliciting volunteers to provide side-by-side all-terrain vehicles to take veterans and their families on off-road rides through Heartland Lodge's 1,500 acres of property, and a strong response was shown.
"It's just really been great to see how people come together for something like this," Wagner said. "We're excited to be part of it."
Wagner said any surplus funds raised through the event beyond what is needed to cover basic costs will be distributed equally to two local groups -- Honor Flight, which takes veterans on trips to military monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C., and the Tri-State Warriors, a group that steps in to help veterans who need any kind of assistance.
Wagner said veterans can still register for Heroes at Heartland through the website.
"But if a vet and his family just want to come out that day, we can do that as well," Wagner said. "We want to make it as flexible as possible."