By SARA ARTHURS
Twice as many veterans will get to visit their memorials in Washington, D.C., in 2017, thanks to a fundraiser from an accounting firm.
The firm Gilmore Jasion Mahler held an event, “Carnevale,” on Nov. 4 at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts. It’s the largest public accounting firm in the region, with offices in Maumee and Findlay.
Flag City Honor Flight is the Findlay hub of the national Honor Flight network, which flies veterans free of charge to visit the war memorials in Washington, D.C. The nonprofit organization usually takes one flight of 78 to 85 veterans each year, but will be offering two flights in 2017.
This is only possible because of the fundraiser, which raised a total of $42,603.98, enough to pay for a second flight, said Deb Wickerham, flight director and board president.
“We’re grateful that they chose to do this fundraiser for us,” she said.
Flag City Honor Flight has already planned a flight for early June. Wickerham said the second flight will likely take place in late September.
A Toledo chapter previously offered flights but has ceased operations. So, Wickerham said, Flag City Honor Flight is now the Honor Flight chapter for the entire northwestern Ohio region. They have had veterans come from throughout the area and even Michigan and Indiana.
Wickerham said that, although World War II and Korean War veterans have priority, the extra flight might open up spaces for Vietnam War veterans, as well. Seventeen World War II veterans, 63 Korean War veterans and four Vietnam War veterans traveled on last June’s flight.
Each veteran is accompanied by a guardian who sees to their needs. Guardians are asked to make a $400 donation. Veterans fly free of charge.
Steve Schult, a partner with Gilmore Jasion Mahler, said the firm wanted to create a signature event for a nonprofit organization in the Findlay area. They contacted Mayor Lydia Mihalik, who suggested many possible nonprofit organizations that could use help, but when Flag City Honor Flight was mentioned, they felt it was the best fit.
The event featured silent auctions, performers, heavy hors d’oeuvres and an auction where people could raise a paddle to sponsor a veteran.
The firm plans to make it an annual event, with Schult noting the first year’s exceeded their expectations.
Flag City Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization run entirely by volunteers. Wickerham said having a second flight will mean needing more volunteers to help with a variety of tasks.
Applications for volunteers and guardians can be found on the Flag City Honor Flight’s website.
Schult said many of the firm’s staff members plan to be at the Toledo airport when the veterans return from their June flight, to welcome them back and to help with cleanup.
He said it’s “mind-boggling” that when veterans came home from war, they weren’t thanked or welcomed.