We hope 'Lt. Dan' event prospers in new venue

info@islandpacket.comApril 26, 2013 

If Independence Fund organizers think moving significant portions of its Lt. Dan Week 4 to Charleston means they can raise more money for a worthy cause, no one should begrudge them that decision.

After all, the point of the organization and its signature event is to provide aid and respite for wounded and disabled service members and their families; an enjoyable festival for Beaufort residents is a nice way to provide that, but it's merely a means to an end.

And Independence Fund organizers have given the community enough to begrudge already.

Take, for instance, the sense of entitlement its leaders, including founder Steve Danyluk, exhibited when the organization sought dispensation from rules that apply to everybody else.

That was the case when the organization asked Beaufort County and the city of Beaufort to overlook out-of-cycle or ill prepared applications for accommodations tax grants. That also was the case when the group complained this past fall about the size of an already-discounted bill from the city for security and the use of Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

When Danyluk announced recently that the Independence Fund would relocate Lt. Dan Week's marquee event -- a concert by actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band, generously performed without compensation -- local governments had little choice but to refuse or revoke their accommodations tax grants, which are based in part on an event's ability to attract out-of-town visitors.

A city of Beaufort committee will not recommend a $5,000 grant to the Independence Fund, as it originally planned. And Beaufort County Council's Finance Committee has asked the organization to return $13,900 awarded to it by the county last September.

Frankly, the money should have been returned without prompting.

Beaufortonians can still take the high road, even as the event takes the road out of town. It can thank the Independence Fund for three years of entertainment graciously provided by Sinise and other musicians, as well as the inspiring presence of those who have given so much in service of their country.

Indeed, our nicked pride is nothing to the sacrifices our wounded warriors have made or the challenges they continue to confront.

Charleston might come to embrace this event as Beaufort has. We hope the Lt. Dan Week's is successful there, for the sake of those it benefits.

Still, Charleston is a larger market, and it is not as steeped in military culture as Beaufort. It also offers much more competition for entertainment dollars and charitable giving.

And Charleston, unlike Beaufort, shares no evident link with Sinise, who played the eponymous Lt. Dan in the movie "Forrest Gump," filmed in part in Beaufort. That connection made this event, held in this place, a little extra special.

If things don't work out in Charleston, Danyluk should consider bringing the major events back to Beaufort, and we should welcome them back with open arms.

But if that happens, we hope Danyluk returns with a greater appreciation for the community that helped get the Lt. Dan Week off the ground.

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