Food, fun and freedom

Folks mingling at the annual nursing home veterans picnic, held June 21 at Shawnee Boat Club.

A couple takes a time out from the festivities to enjoy a waltz together.

The annual picnic for nursing home veterans was hosted June 21 at Shawnee Boat Club.

With a turnout of over 250, event organizer Jane Saddler said the afternoon was a success. The event was started over 25 years ago by Saddler’s husband Jim. After his passing nearly two years ago, Jane and her family continued the event in his memory.

“It’s been a really great year,” Saddler said. For the past two years we’ve had threats of rain and have had to delay things. But this year, it was a clear sky and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. We have a lot of great volunteers and we’re grateful that the community continues to support us.”

Saddler said over 20 rest/nursing home facilities participate annually. The event provides the veterans with a chance to get out and about and enjoy the sunshine.

“They really love coming down here and just looking out over the water,” Saddler said. “We’re out in Minford so they don’t get an opportunity to come down to the river front. This is the one time of year they get to just sit back and relax. Once the warm weather hits, they start asking about the picnic. It’s almost like a reunion of sorts. They get to come out and see people they know from other facilities and visit with them, and they all really look forward to it. Sometimes we get someone who hasn’t been before and the other residents tell them about it and they’re always excited to come out and see for themselves what it’s all about,” said caregivers Carol Herdman and Tina Brown. Herdman and Brown both work for Elbrooke Pavilion, a retirement center in Minford.

Saddler says many groups come together to help assist with the event, from setting up tents and donating items to preparing food and helping clean-up, there were an abundance of helping hands.

Mountain Man (Phil Vassar) and Chainsaw (Walt Warner) of the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club said they look forward to helping with the event every year.

“It’s a wonderful cause,” Vassar said. “We love our veterans. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be free. We wouldn’t have anything. I wasn’t in the military but I respect our veterans a lot and this is what our club does, we help out with charity.”

Saddler also hosts a Christmas program for the veterans in December. More updates will be available as winter approaches.

Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977 and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.