The Liberty Lake Centennial Rotary Club has hosted a Memorial Day breakfast to raise funds for Inland Northwest Honor Flight, which takes veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorials, for the past decade. This year, a pandemic has intervened and the breakfast has been canceled, but the club is still working to raise money for Honor Flight.
The breakfast in Pavillion Park usually includes a full program with guest speakers. Last year 500 people attended, raising $7,000. It quickly became clear there could be no breakfast this year, club president Emily Osborne said.
“We can go to the park, it’s just you can’t congregate,” she said. “I was so disheartened. We love this event. We didn’t want to cancel it, but we didn’t have a choice.”
Honor Flight director Tony Lamanna usually speaks at the breakfast each year and shares stories of veterans who have been on the trip. “It’s an emotional program, just hearing those stories,” she said.
The club has posted a fundraising link on its website, portal.clubrunner.ca/1811, and Facebook page so people can contribute. The club will match up to $5,000 in donations. About $600 was donated in the first two weeks the link was live.
Osborne said she knows this is not an ideal time for a fundraiser, but the club still wanted to do what it could for Honor Flight.
“I know this is a difficult time for many,” she said.
Lamanna said Honor Flight depends on donations to send groups of veterans to Washington, D.C. There are usually 100 veterans on each chartered flight with two flights a year. Honor Flight pays $1,500 per veteran for the flight, hotel and meals. Each veteran is accompanied by a guardian who is asked to pay $950 to pay their way.
When Honor Flight began, it was focused on World War II veterans, but with fewer veterans of that war still living, the flights now carry quite a few Vietnam and Korean War veterans. There were 100 veterans scheduled for the canceled April trip and there are 400 more on a waiting list.
“That’s at least five future trips,” Lamanna said. “The community fundraising is essential for us.”
The Liberty Lake Rotary is one of four groups that do annual fundraisers for Honor Flight. In any given year, other groups will do fundraisers that Lamanna doesn’t know about until he is presented with a check. There are also private individuals who donate.
Another Honor Flight is scheduled for this fall, but Lamanna said he isn’t sure that will happen. “We’re just waiting to hear from the national office,” he said.
Osborne said it’s important to the club that they still support Honor Flight.
“There is a great need,” she said. “For us, it’s important to support those vets. Our club just couldn’t imagine scrapping the whole effort.”
The club plans to put a series of posts on its Facebook page on Memorial Day to mark the occasion. Osborne said she’s also encouraging people to complete the Fallen Heroes circuit course in Liberty Lake, a 5-mile route that goes from station to station with a plaque at each station that memorializes a local service member. Information about the route is posted on the club’s Facebook page.
“We would really love to encourage people to get out and visit those stations,” she said. “We all need fresh air, and we all need a reminder.”
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