Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital
16th Annual Vettes to Vets
The annual parade of Corvettes arrived at Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital (Bedford VA) on Sept. 29th, 2019 for the 16th Annual Vettes to Vets Day to support Veterans at Bedford VA.
Karen Blandini, President of Vettes to Vets, recounts how the event grew from 25 Corvettes in attendance 16 years ago, to the now massive Corvette rally with drivers from all over New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Canada. The event showcased 670 Corvettes in 2017, 681 in 2018 and a record shattering 726 Corvettes roared in for the 2019 show. Blandini says that Corvettes and Veterans are a natural fit. Veterans love the Corvette because it was the sports car of their youth and it generates a great deal of nostalgia. “It’s America’s only sports car. It’s just a classic iconic American car and it is the one they all wanted to have in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s,” she said. Each year the Veterans vote at Bedford VA for their favorite. The winning Corvette's owner receives the Veteran’s Choice Trophy and their car is featured on a custom pin sold the following year. When asked why she goes to the effort to hold this enormous event each year, she replies, “It’s all about the Veterans. It’s the right thing to do!”
Held on Gold Star Mother's Day each year, the goal of the annual Vettes to Vets Corvette show is to raise funds and items to benefit Veterans cared for at Bedford VA. Since Vettes to Vets started in 2003, more than half a million dollars has been raised in donations, both monetary and non-monetary. Funds have been used to rebuild the hospital’s greenhouse; maintain an education center for Veterans with free Internet and computer training, build a new hospice unit, and purchase a wheelchair van for recreational outings for patients.
Vettes to Vets was a recent recipient of the national American Hospital Association HAVE Award (Hospital Awards for Voluntary Excellence) for their contributions to Veterans and the 2017 Eagle Spirit Award from Bedford VA for an outstanding contribution by a volunteer group to our Veterans.
Over 140 volunteers were on hand to support the event such as DLH Cares, whose army of corporate volunteers helped Fran Latanowich, volunteer from Oddfellows, cook for over 1500 in attendance. Remarkable students from the Landmark School expertly sorted thousands of donations as they came in. Fence Force Flagline brought their patriotic salute to the Veterans and the Corvette drivers by lining the entrance to the hospital with hundreds of flags. The Never Easy Band also volunteered their time and talent as well as Maia Kennedy who captured the magic in her photography. Numerous volunteers came to assist the Veterans in wheelchairs to come outside to enjoy this special day.
Many of the Corvette drivers make the event an annual tradition, staying for the weekend at a nearby hotel where the parade is staged. A dinner the night before includes both silent and live auctions to enhance the fundraising and comeraderie. The weather was glorious the day of the Corvette show as the parade of cars to rumbled in for over an hour, waving to the Veterans and those in attendance as they arrived. The parade was followed by a huge barbecue, voting and live music by the Never Easy Band. A brief ceremony thanking the Veterans, Corvette Drivers, volunteers and neighbors was attended by Col. Chad R. Ellsworth, Commander, 66th Air Base Group, Hanscom Air Force Base, Francisco Ureña Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services, and Bedford VA Leadership.
Pictures from this year's event are in our 2019 Album. Pics from 2018 and other years on our Facebook Albums "The Plates", The Corvettes, and Lowell Sun, "Vettes to Vets". WHDH Channel 7 Boston covered the event here. Special thank you to Vettes to Vets and all who make this an outstanding tradition for the Bedford VA Veterans! For information on how you can make a donation to Bedford VA, visit Bedford.Va.gov/giving or call Voluntary Service at 781-687-3076.