Organizer: Lt. Dan Week to return Beaufort County tax money

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMay 10, 2013 

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Gary Sinise jams with band member Kimo Williams. The Lt. Dan Band with Gary Sinise played at Waterfront Park for 74 wounded veterans and caregivers on Sept. 15. The Independence Fund hosted the Lt. Dan Weekend for the third time in Beaufort, S.C., from Sept. 10-16.

SGT. ERICA KNIGHT — U.S. Army

— On April 29, Bill O’Reilly, host of the popular Fox News’ “The Factor,” announced he was supporting the Independence Fund’s effort to provide all-terrain wheel chairs at $15,000-a piece to veterans, according to a press release. Reilly committed to raising money for 50 of the chairs after touring Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Fund founder Steve Danyluk said the offers of support have been pouring in since O’Reilly’s announcement.

“Since Mr. O'Reilly made his initial plea I have been unable to shave, shower or change my underpants because I have been so busy responding to the requests to support,” Danyluk joked in the release.

The Independence Fund hopes O’Reilly will attend the Lt. Dan Band Concert, and is trying to get Stephen Colbert to lend support to the fund as well.

The leader of the group that conducts the Lt. Dan Week has agreed to give back an accommodations-tax grant from Beaufort County.

The county requested the money be returned because the Lt. Dan Band concert — the headline event of the weeklong fundraiser for disabled veterans — is slated to be moved to The Citadel in Charleston.

At least one other Lt. Dan Week event also will be held in Charleston, and more changes could be on the way.

“We’re happy to return the money, if that’s what Beaufort County desires,” Independence Fund founder Steve Danyluk said, adding that he will write a check to the county as soon as he knows what address to send it to.

Moving the Sept. 14 concert with Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band was announced April 12. Three days later, the county’s Finance Committee voted to request that the $13,900 grant given for the event be returned.

The accommodations tax, or “bed tax,” is a levy on overnight lodging to fund programs that promote tourism or attract out-of-town visitors. Committee members said that without the concert, the week is not enough of a tourist draw to merit the grant.

The concert move was met with disappointment by some in Beaufort, including several who have been involved with the Lt. Dan fundraiser since its start four years ago.

“It’s understandable that people are upset that we moved the concert to The Citadel, but we’re hopeful that once people get past the initial shock, people will realize that, for the veterans and the number of people that the Independence Fund will be able to help and the amount of money we’ll be able to raise, they’ll see it’s a good thing,” Danyluk said.

The 2013 Lt. Dan Week will be Sept. 9-15.

The 5K bike ride scheduled for Sept. 15 has been moved to Charleston, and the event’s fishing trips are uncertain.

Danyluk said it made sense to change the race venue because it would be too hard on the veterans to drive them from Beaufort to the concert in Charleston and then drive them back the next morning for the 9 a.m. bike ride.

An open-house party may be held during the veterans stay at Palm Key, near Ridgeland, as a way to include the Beaufort community. A local bike ride might also be arranged.

“Honestly, we really do want to include the entire Lowcountry in this event,” Danyluk said.

Tickets for the Lt. Dan Concert are expected to go on sale soon at ltdw.org.

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