A Beaufort nonprofit organization and scores of local volunteers are again preparing to welcome dozens of severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to the Lowcountry.
More than 80 disabled veterans and their caretakers and relatives will arrive in Beaufort next week for the third annual Lt. Dan Weekend, a three-day event created by the Independence Fund to raise money for robotic wheelchairs, therapy and other care for those veterans.
The festivities include a golf tournament Sept. 14 at The Sanctuary at Cat Island; a bike ride and 5K at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on Sept. 15; and the main event Sept. 15, a concert by actor Gary Sinise's 13-piece Lt. Dan Band in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, which is expected to draw thousands of fans downtown.
Though fundraising and securing corporate sponsors concerned organizers in previous years, they say that has not been the case this year -- ticket sales, especially for the Sept. 15 concert, have been strong.
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"The total number sold today was between 40 and 50, and I expect that to continue to pick up as the 15th draws nearer," said Independence Fund founder Steve Danyluk. "Will we sell out? Much of that will depend on the weather, I think."
The Independence Fund also received some last-minute financial help from the city of Beaufort, which agreed last month to provide about $10,000 in police, fire, parking and other services, and to waive $4,400 in fees. Last year, the city gave $9,670 in similar in-kind help.
In addition to helping boost the morale of wounded veterans, the event should provide a lift to local restaurants, hotels and other businesses, Danyluk said.
"About 40 percent of the people who have purchased tickets ... are coming from outside Beaufort County, and two tickets yesterday were purchased from a German address," Danyluk said. "(Those spectators) will be filling the local hotels and restaurants on a non-graduation weekend at (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) Parris Island."