Villagers for Veterans will hold its first official club meeting on Tuesday but the group is already a huge success.
Marie Bogdonoff heads the non-profit organization and in the past year Villagers for Veterans has made its mark. Interest and support reached a peak in May with the “Indy Orchid Gala,” that raised nearly $140,000 for the Independence Fund. That fund helps severely-wounded vets with transportation and housing.
Now, Bogdonoff has decided to turn the organization into a Villages club. The first meeting is July 21 at 10 a.m. at Sterling Heights Recreation Center. All those wanting to help wounded and needy veterans are welcome. For information call 516-220-5068or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We hoping to get at least 20 people,” Bogdonoff said. “We’ve got a lot of big things coming up and I think people in The Villages will want to be involved.”
Two of Villages for Veterans biggest supporters are Jennifer Griffin, national security correspondent for Fox News, and her husband Greg Myre, who also works for Fox. They came here for the Gala in May and were impressed.
“Marie does such good work for veterans and they (Villagers for Veterans) really care about helping all vets,” Griffin said. “We’re proud to be able to help.”
The group is planning more benefits.
On Aug. 14, the club will hold a fund-raiser for Sgt. Pam Kelly. The Army veteran lost the use of both her legs and right arm in a training accident. Kelly needs a multi-task service dog and Villagers for Veterans is trying to raise $10,000 to help her.
A karaoke benefit will be held Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. in the SeaBreeze Recreation Center. It’s billed as “Paws for a Hero.” Admission is free and donations will be accepted.
“We’re going to do everything we can to help Pam get this specially-trained service dog,” Bogdonoff said.
On November 7, the group will sponsor a book signing for “Mighty Moms of Walter Reed.” It will be held at the American Legion Post and feature mothers and their wounded sons and daughters who spent time at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Bogdonoff also hopes to have another fundraiser for John Peck, a Marine who lost both arms and legs while serving in Afghanistan. The group raised $7,000 in a benefit for Peck last summer and he is still waiting for experimental surgery to replace his arms.
“John is writing a book and we want to bring him back here when it’s done,” Bogdonoff said.
“It’s awesome that Marie and The Villages would do so much for me,” Peck said last year. “I just want to thank everyone who lives in The Villages for supporting me. I want them to know I will never forget them.”
Such support is part of what Villagers for Veterans is all about.
“When you see these brave young Americans with these injuries, you just have to help them,” Bogdonoff said. “They have given so much for us and our country, we have to do as much as we can for them.”