Lt. Dan Week volunteers split to start own fund for veterans, first responders

05/19/2013 10:50 PM

05/19/2013 10:51 PM

Several local Lt. Dan Week organizers have broken away from the Independence Fund to start their own organization that will raise money for wounded veterans, as well as first-responders such as police and firefighters.

“It makes sense because a lot of them are veterans, and they get up in the morning and put on a uniform, and they don’t know if they’re going to come home at the end of the day,” said Beaufort City Councilwoman Donnie Beer. “They put their lives on the line every day.”

Beer has supported the Independence Fund’s Lt. Dan activities for three years. But she has distanced herself from the group since the organization’s decision to move the main concert and other activities to Charleston and because of some disagreements with the group’s leadership. The move of the Sept. 14 concert, featuring actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band, was announced April 12.

The new group, consisting largely of Lt. Dan Week volunteers, is called the Healing Heroes of the Lowcountry Fund.

“What we did with the Independence Fund — purchasing equipment for the veterans who need it so badly — we want to continue that,” Beer said. “But we have to start on a small scale because we’re starting from scratch.”

Fund organizers are deciding whether to file for nonprofit status or to collaborate with an established nonprofit organization involved with veterans or public-safety causes, Beer said.

The group is considering activities such as fishing and golf tournaments. It also might organize concerts by acts smaller than the Lt. Dan Band. Sinise’s band played for free, but it costs about $20,000 to set up the stage in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, Beer said.

Last year, the Lt. Dan Weekend raised about $200,000, half of which went toward expenses and the other half toward therapy and equipment for veterans. Another $100,000 of in-kind donations was provided for things such as lodging, food and transportation for the veterans.

Beer and other participants say they have maintained contacts with groups involved with wounded veterans and hope to get to work soon.

Follow reporter Erin Moody on Twitter.

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