Nursing home veterans honored with picnic

The clouds rolled in. The thunder sounded ominous and yes, some raindrops threatened to put a damper on the day, but there they were there through it all, the area’s nursing home veterans at their annual picnic held Wednesday at the Shawnee Boat Club in Portsmouth, an event founded by the late Jim Saddler, who passed away this past year.

“It’s just such a great program,” Darrell Ramey, commodore of the Shawnee Boat Club, said. “I personally met Jim Saddler about 15 years ago. He’s pretty inspiring when it comes to things of this nature. He got me involved in it. Of course the boat club was involved before I was commodore. Once I got into it we just saw how it was and everything is so great, and then you see the volunteers and the people that help do this thing. It’s not just Shawnee Boat Club, it’s not just the motorcycle people – the hillbillies and all that – it takes every one of them to bring this thing together.”

Caregivers from nursing homes wheeled the veterans into the club area and got them seated at a table under a shelter, then things got down to business. Hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, beans and cornbread were the fare of the day, and everyone got all they wanted to eat. But again, most notable by his absence, the center of many conversations was Jim Saddler.

“It’s a good project,” Saddler’s wife, Jane Saddler, said. “It is something that was so near and dear to his heart. How can you not continue? These nursing home veterans, bless their hearts, they’re in a situation now where they can’t help it. A lot of them don’t have family members. A lot of them are forgotten. And we don’t want to forget them.”

Will the event continue in the years ahead?

“As long as we possibly can. If I can maintain my physical health and depend on my two kids, we’ll try to continue on,” Saddler said. Saddler’s son, Rich Saddler served as master of ceremonies.

A lot of the credit for the financing of the event has to be given to a group of bikers who put themselves at risk to brave the traffic flow and ask you for a couple of dollars.

“The Bikers for Charity are the ones that funded this one,” Saddler said. “They had a traffic stop for us about a month ago and they raised $8,400,” Saddler said.

The crowd was enthusiastic and the volunteers plenteous with their main goal being to make each of the nursing home veterans and their caregivers feel welcome and have a good time. It didn’t look like any government official sat the event out. Judges, law enforcement, office holders, and current veterans, all turned out to make it another special event.

“When you see it come together like it does and everybody is volunteering to help and when you see the dedication they have to it, it’s very heartwarming,” Ramey said.
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