Built as a family friendly day to connect the community with those who are serving or have served in the military, the third-annual Veterans Picnic in the Park will be held Aug. 13 at Buttery Brook Park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The event will feature local musician Lindsey LaBelle, a pickleball tournament, cornhole tournament, food trucks and a kid zone.
Organized by the Western Massachusetts Veterans Service Officers Association (WMVSOA) and the Matthew J. Vieu Memorial Fund with the support of several community sponsors, the event is free and open to the public.
WMVSOA is an organization of municipal government service officers employed by their respective city or town. The officers are trained on veteran benefits and programs and are knowledgeable about state and federal services that help veterans and their families.
The Mathew J. Vieu Memorial Fund, Inc. supports and assists local veterans and active-duty service members.
One major event goal is to reach as many active-duty service members, members of the National Guard and Reservists, veterans, and veteran family members as possible while attracting community citizens who support veterans in the community, said South Hadley Director of Veteran Services Michael Slater.
“’We are All One Community,” is the theme for this year’s picnic,” he said. “We have an amazing day of community interaction planned.
LaBelle will perform from 4 to 6 p.m. South Hadley Pickle ball will host a competition for veterans and a mixed double tournament. A kid zone will have fun activities for children, including an 80-foot inflatable obstacle course, crafts and archery.
In addition to live music, a beer tent, food and togetherness, the event features providers who have information for veterans and community members.
Bringing people together is what the day is all about. Research shows veterans returning home from military service have an easier transition to civilian life when there are supportive communities that encourage beneficial hobbies, education, and work opportunities for military families. Peer support is also a key component.
“This is the biggest event in our region that connects the community with our military and veteran community,” said Slater. “This event not only serves as a way for the community to honor veterans but to also bridge the gap between younger and older veterans, and for citizens to meet veterans and to learn more about military service.”
Major community sponsors include Amherst VFW Post 754, Bank ESB, Timberland Trucking LLC, Adam Quenneville Roofing & Siding, Friends of South Hadley Seniors, Florence Bank, PeoplesBank, American Legion Post 260, The Johnsons Groups, South Hadley VFW Post 3104 and Bob Pion Buick GMC. There are more sponsorships available, according to Slater.
“If you’re looking for a great way to extend your support to the veteran community, this is it,” he said.
The purpose of the day is connecting veterans with community support services, as well as offering help with veteran benefits and programs. Each year, several veterans attend the event and get help with health care, wellness programs and income assistance.
“Many veterans have no idea what’s available,” said Slater. “We will have folks who understand and work with veterans and their families every day. Navigating the system can be difficult for many veterans. Events like this make it easier for them to access the benefits they have earned through their military service.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Mobile Vet Center, based out of the Hartford Vet Center, along with the Veterans Health Administration, will be on location. Benefit counselors and other VA representatives will meet with veterans and their family members.
Veterans are encouraged to bring their DD-214 discharge record to determine eligibility for VA benefits, to include the opportunity to apply for VA health care and a VA service-connected disability.
For more event information visit: https://www.facebook.com/vetspip
A sequence of events is as follows:
10a.m. – Event opens
10 a.m.-12 p.m.: Veteran Round Robin Pickel Ball Tournament
10 a.m.-11 p.m.: Tanya Gets You Fit Parent and Child Fitness Class
10:15 -11 a.m.: Cornhole Tournament Registration
11 a.m. - 4 p.m.: Cornhole Tournament
11 a.m. -12 p.m. - Line Dancing with Jen
12-12:30 p.m. - Opening Ceremony
Posting of Colors- Massachusetts VFW Honor Guard
Singing of National Anthem
Moment of Silence (POW/MIA/Those Serving)
1-3 p.m.: Mixed Doubles Pickle Ball Tournament
1-2 p.m: TRX Yoga
2-3 p.m.: Mediation
3-4 p.m.: CHD Intro to Adaptive Sports
4-6 p.m.: Lindsey Labelle Concert
6 p.m.: Event ends