City of Oconomowoc - Preliminary results estimate that nearly $100,000 was raised at the recent Honor and Valor fundraiser for Veterans Park.
The successful event drew 800 people to Olympia Resort on Feb. 2 to help garner the resources needed to refurbish the park.
To help further the cause, Oconomowoc residents and philanthropists Craig Schiefelbein and Dirk Debbink offered to match donations of $100 or more for those donations committed by Feb. 16, and paid by Dec. 31.
The joint matches will be made from the Schiefelbein and Debbink Family Foundations.
"So for every one dollar donated, another dollar is donated from the combined foundations," explained event organizer Maribeth Bush.
The challenge match was met enthusiastically.
"In the first run of matches the night of the event, approximately $20,000 came in from pledges to be matched," Bush said.
However, as well as the project has been received, more funding will be necessary to see the plan through to fruition.
"We still have some footwork to do in the next six to eight months to go out and collect another $100,000," explained fellow park advocate, Mac Dorn.
"If we get halfway, we can start building," he said of the $400,000 undertaking.
"It's enough to say we'll go ahead with the plan," he added.
The early success does impact the timeline of the project.
"This pushes us forward from 2015 to 2014 because the response has been so very positive," he added.
Pledge slips can be picked up at Books & Co in Oconomowoc or by contacting Mac Dorn at email@example.com.
Brick by brick
To help reach the financial goal, organizers are selling inscribed bricks to assist with construction available through its website, www.veteranspark-ocon.org
"They will be continual; an ongoing opportunity for the community to thank or memorialize and there are veteran and nonveteran bricks available," explained Bush.
Two sizes of bricks are available, 4-by-8 for $125, and 8-by-8 for $150.
Commemorative bracelets are also available for $20, or two for $30.
Recently renamed Veterans Memorial Park, the space was previously known as Memorial Park and Library Park.
The project plans to utilize the one acre of green space on the shore of Lac La Belle to reflect gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by veterans.
The timeline for the project is estimated to take between 18 and 24 months to complete. Renderings feature an archway entry to the park. In the center will be a water fountain surrounded by a brick or stone circle with a pentagon star shape surrounding that representing the five service organizations. The five points within the star will encompass the crest of each branch of service, and the military organization's flag will stand there as well.
Organizers say the metal arch that looms above the star represents unity. Columns at each point of the star signify strength, and on top of the arch is an eagle, the symbol of American freedom, keeping guard. Other key features of the plan include reflection areas and a memorial for POW/MIAs with a black stone that will have the American flag engraved in it.
The WWI and Vietnam/Korean War memorials from City Beach will be relocated to the park which will feature a memory brick area comprised of the bricks currently on sale.
Megan Welsh, who helped to organize the recent fundraiser - that featured popular local band, Big Al and the Hi-Fi's coming out of retirement to play - said the fundraising event was great as an awareness builder and community reunion.
"There are no immediate plans for another event," she said.
"Our goal of Memorial Day 2014, if that happens, there will be a wonderful community event," to celebrate, Welsh said.
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