QUINCY -- Veterans gave last month's Heroes at Heartland rave reviews, and on Friday the organizers gave a pair of veterans' programs a big financial boost.
The Great River Honor Flight and Tri-State Warrior Outreach each received checks for about $2,000, during a news conference in the Oakley-Lindsay Center. The money was left after expenses were paid for last month's event, where veterans and their families were hosted for a day of fun, games and thanks at Harpole's Heartland Lodge.
Carlos Fernandez, board chairman for the Great River Honor Flight, said the community's financial support has allowed the group to take 1,608 local World War II, Korean War and Vietnam era veterans to Washington, D.C., over the past 10 years to visit veterans memorials. Fernandez said the next flight, planned for Sept. 29, will be the chapter's 50th.
"We are very appreciative of the ongoing support to the Great River Honor Flight from the Heroes at Heartland event," said Fernandez, who is general manager of WGEM.
Glenn Swick of the Tri-State Warrior Outreach said the group will use the money to provide temporary, limited assistance to local veterans.
"The $2,000 donation from Heroes at Heartland will allow us to assist with the unmet needs of six to 10 veterans and their families. We average a request a month, so these funds could carry us into 2019," Swick said.
The group also will hold the Tri-State Warrior Run/Walk on Oct. 28, at the Illinois Veterans Home as its main fund raiser.
Marcel Wagner Jr., president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation, said the funds donated Friday were left over after expenses from the second annual Heroes at Heartland, held Aug. 11.
"We had 246 veterans and their families at the event. That's about 70 more than last year. We also had 48 people that brought side-by-sides to give the veterans and their families rides. And we had about 60 volunteers," Wagner said.
The event's growth has organizers excited about its future. Wagner said he'll probably check with Heartland Lodge on possible dates about the same time next year.
During Friday's news conference, Ryan Hinkamper of Quincy was announced as winner of tires for his side-by-side based on a drawing sponsored by Titan International for those who provided rides during Heroes at Heartland.
Titan is one of the main sponsors of the event, along with media sponsors WGEM and The Herald-Whig.
Ron Wallace, vice president of newspapers for Quincy Media Inc. and publisher of The Herald-Whig, urged the community to keep the focus on veterans. He said all Americans should "thank a veteran" who fought for the right to free speech, freedom of religion and freedom to travel from one state to another without going through checkpoints.
"Thank you for your service," Wallace said to close out the news conference.