Organizers hope to raise $50,000 at a marathon event Oct. 20-21 at the Veterans Park of America near Whiteville.
“This is our most ambitious fundraiser yet,” said Angela Norris, “but I think we can make it happen.”
Organizers will hold the first official meeting for the first Highway of Veterans tonight (Thursday.) The Highway of Veterans will be similar to the familiar and popular Relay For Life events, Spivey said, with all night entertainment, family friendly activities, and competitions among groups to see who can raise the most for the veterans park.
“Squads” will consist of seven members, plus a squad leader. A total of 40 squads will be accepted, Norris said. Registration fee is $10 per person, with T-shirts going to each member who raises $100. Norris said she expects businesses, church and civic organizations, and others to form squads for the event. Groups of four squads will be called “platoons.”
Groups will be encouraged to set up military camps around the walking trail. Bands, food, kids’ activities and other attractions are scheduled for the event, Norris said.
The event will begin with a noon luncheon for all veterans, with set-up of camps through 5 p.m. At 6 p.m., the opening ceremonies will include the National Anthem, prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, along with a red, white and blue balloon release.
After the opening ceremony, the laps will begin on the walking trail. Families of deceased veterans will begin the procession, followed by veterans, active duty service members, children of veterans and local veteran motorcycle groups. General laps begin after the procession.
A memorial service will also be held at 9 p.m., with luminaries available to honor veterans and family members.
The Timothy Marlowe Band and Honey Don’t have agreed to attend, Norris said, with the Richard Gore and Mike Ward bands on Saturday. A POW-MIA ceremony will also be observed at noon on Saturday, with closing ceremonies at 6 p.m.
Other events and displays are planned for the weekend, Norris said, and others may be added as the date draws closer.
“This is going to be a great chance for people to show their support for veterans, in a way that we know is fun,” she said. “We were looking for something different, and this gives us a chance to try something fresh as well as showcase the park.
“There is a lot that has to be done for a 24-hour event like this one, so we are always looking for volunteers.”
The Veterans Park, located at 6354 J.B. White Hwy. South, will eventually be home to a small museum, memorials to all branches of service, static displays and a Hall of Honor featuring photographs of all known county veterans. The park is the largest of its kind currently open or under construction on the East Coast, Norris said. The campus is being built on a former farm field purchased by the Veterans of America Park Inc. with donations. With the exception of a $50,000 promise from county commissioners, the park is entirely funded by private donations. The park is anticipated to cost around $1 million when complete.
Enlistment packets for the Highway for Veterans may be obtained from any park member. Call 840-3848 or 840-0072 for more information. Donations may also be mailed to Veterans Memorial Park of America (VMPA), c/o Angela Norris, P.O. Box 1003, Whiteville, N.C. 28472.