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VetsRoll plans third trip to Washington for veterans

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GINA R. HEINE
November 11, 2011
— Traveling with World War II and Korean War veterans to the memorials that honor them in Washington is like being a fly on the wall, a founder of VetsRoll said.

For a few days, volunteers with VetsRoll are allowed into the lives of veterans to “hear the stories they share and what they went through to preserve freedom,” said Mark Finnegan, who with his brother John runs the nonprofit VetsRoll organization.


“It’s just heart wrenching in some cases—and the fulfillment of what it means to their lives,” he said.


VetsRoll will be back by popular demand, he said.


The Finnegans are planning a third VetsRoll trip to Washington from May 20 to 23.


The brothers have led two trips that have impacted the lives of hundreds of area veterans. They hear stories from family members of trip participants who have died and been buried in their VetsRoll T-shirts, Finnegan said.


The fact that VetsRoll was chosen as the featured charity at the Walworth County Fair over Labor Day weekend helped make up their minds to plan a third trip, Finnegan said. More than $15,000 was raised for the trip during the fair, he said.


The nonprofit needs to raise between $180,000 to $200,000 for each trip, and Finnegan said some money was left over from this year’s trip.


A few recent fundraisers also are contributing: Clinton firefighters and EMTs raised about $2,500 at a spaghetti dinner, and the American Legion Auxiliary in South Beloit, Ill., raised more than $5,000 at a Swiss steak dinner. A Rockford, Ill., elementary school will be able to sponsor one veteran after a penny fundraiser brought in $600.


The next trip will be nearly the same as the one taken in May this year—200 veterans and “Rosie the Riveter” types, along with 100 volunteer assistants will travel on 10 coach buses and one support van. Fire departments from across Rock County are trying to put two EMTs on every bus, Finnegan said.


The trip is free for veterans and $500 for volunteers.


About 35 veterans were on a waiting list from this year’s trip, so most of them plan to travel on VetsRoll 3. The nonprofit has about 100 veterans signed up so far. Applications are being accepted now online or by mail.


TO LEARN MORE

Information about Vets Roll 3 is available at vetsroll.org or by calling 1-800-383-2267. Applications for veterans and volunteers are on the website, and donations can be sent through the website, too. Applications and donations also can be mailed to 1777 Gardner St., South Beloit, IL 61080.


The group also has a Facebook page.



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