Each fall, during the “Vettes to Vets Day” fundraiser, an award is given to the owner of a particularly memorable Corvette. It’s called the Veteran’s Choice Award.
Another will be awarded as the 16th annual salute and fundraiser to U.S. veterans takes place Sunday, Sept. 29 at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford.
In an example of how these events can come full circle, event chairwoman Karen Blandini remembered the first award winner, a Korean veteran who brought his 1954 Vette, new when purchased upon his return to the United States.
The prize is an image of that car on a blue fleece vest.
“The next year he became quite ill…and has since passed away,” Blandini said. “He was in the hospice unit at the VA. It’s an example of what we do. He supported us, and then we were able to support him in hospice.”
Supporting Veterans, the Real Stars of the Day
The myriad Corvettes are the stars Sunday. However, it is the funds and nonmonetary items that support the real stars, the U.S. Veterans.
Among the items sought by the VA are bottled water, gift cards, new men’s and women’s clothing, including sweat pants and sweatshirts, socks, underwear, sweaters, washable slippers, sneakers with Velcro laces, hats, gloves and winter and spring jackets.
Faces in the Crowd
Vettes to Vets ~ My, How You’ve Grown!
The event has grown each year. For example, the first event drew just 25 Corvette owners. In 2018, nearly 700 Vettes took part.
“It has grown into a massive Corvette rally with drivers from all over New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Canada,” Blandini said. The event had 670 Corvettes in 2017 and 681 officially registered in 2018.”
Since 2003, nearly a half-million dollars has been raised to help rebuild the hospital’s greenhouse as well as an education center with free Internet and computer training. A new wheelchair van was also purchased for recreational outings for patients.
Ron Morneau began the event when he asked a few friends to bring their Corvettes to the VA.
“The third year I said to Ron let’s open it up to the Corvette community,” Blandini said. “I said you work with the hospital and I’ll work with the Corvette community. That year 102 Corvettes showed up. And it has grown ever since.
“It’s a good thing I’m retired. This keeps me busy all year long.”
Blandini may not be a veteran of U.S. armed forces. She is involved because her father, as well as uncles, fought in World War II.
“Lot of my friends were veterans,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do. This for me way giving back. This is for people who stepped up when asked and why we have freedom.”
Many of the more than 100 volunteers are veterans as well.
Blandini owns a 2014 C7 Stingray, a classic design that harkens back seven generations of Corvettes.
Blandini and other Vette owners – and those want to participate – will take part in the V2V Saturday evening buffet, which starts at 6 p.m., and a Sunday breakfast at the Marriott Hotel in Billerica at 7:30 a.m. Following the breakfast, the Corvette drivers will meet at 11:15.
Next comes the parade, which ends at the Bedford VA. Once the cars are in place, a band and a color guard from Massachusetts, as well as officials from Hanscom Air Force Base, will help celebrate the fundraiser with the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthems of the United States and Canada.
“I think it has given people the ability to say thank you,” Blandini said. “It’s a win-win. No negatives.
“For me, it’s very personal. One thing I find so rewarding, everything goes straight to the veterans.”
For more information, contact Blandini at 781-858-1810 or visit www.vettestovets.org.
The Final Word