From all accounts, this year’s Warrior Beach Week was a fabulous success. Everyone who touched the week had great things to report but most important, our VIFs (Very Important Families) seemed to have the experience we hoped for... we continue to receive wonderful feedback from all those invovled.
Many options of gratitude were offered again this year, including regular daily offerings of paddle boards, kayaking, golf and yoga. The popular Bethany Beach Navy returned as well, with volunteer boat captains providing at least one and in some cases two or three boating excursions per Very Important Family that requested a trip. New additions to the line-up included Horseback Riding, provided by Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding and Christmas in September for VIF Kids, with a special showing of Polar Express and a visit from Santa, courtesy of the Salted Rim. Ladies Spa Day also returned, better than ever, and we even added Junior Spa Day for teenage VIFs.
A quick day-by-day of the week, for those who weren't in town:
- TUESDAY The week kicked off with the Welcome Reception at VFW Post 7234 with great food provided by Bethany Blues and the great atmosphere of the VFW. The colors were presented by the VFW Honor Guard and Delaware State Police. A wonderful addition this year was the Poster Pal Project where over 200 posters were made by volunteers and visitors to Bethany throughout the summer to welcome and pay tribute to our warriors. Posters lined the road leading to the VFW to welcome the VIFs as they arrived into town. They were later picked up and moved to other venues and at the end of the week VIFs were given posters as a memento of the week.
- WEDNESDAY night we had a fabulous cookout at Sea Colony with great food, music and conversation. Delaware Governor Jack Markell paid us a surprise visit and met, talked with, and took pictures with many of our families. Four amazing local photographers took beautiful family portraits as the sun was setting on the beach. Even the Governor took off his socks and shoes, and came down to the beach where he made a few cameos in family portraits. It was a gorgeous night and it was easy to see how increasingly relaxed our families had become.
- THURSDAY was a busy day with Spa treatments, Polar Express and Family Night, where many town residents came out to greet and honor our VIFs. The families played mini-golf at Captain Jack's Pirate Golf, had free use of Arnie's Playland Arcade, family meals around town and a Magic Show at the Bandstand by Dickens Parlour Theatre. A camaraderie among families was formed which we hope will lead to long term gains for our families.
- FRIDAY evening provided the highlight of the week. The VIFs were the honored guests at the Freeman Center for a great concert by Bruce and the USA (a world renown Bruce Springsteen Tribute Band). The entire audience was on their feet rocking to the beat before it was over. But the true highlight occurred on the way to the concert. The VIFs went to the concert in 3 school buses accompanied and escorted by dozens of Police and Fire vehicles and a cadre of motorcycles (Hogs for Heroes). Along the 5+ mile drive, residents lined the street waving flags and cheering for the Warrior families. It was emotional an ride that'll be hard to forget.
- SATURDAY was the busiest day for Stand Up Paddling and Kayaking. There was a great Barbecue lunch at Charlie K’s with music, a Moonbounce and plenty of good conversation and camaraderie. There was also a Classic Car Show at Cripple Creek Country Club benefiting Operation SEAs The Day and one of our VIFs had the honor of selecting the winning cars! The rest of the day was perfect for sampling our beaches and the Atlantic Ocean.
- SUNDAY our Farewell Breakfast was held at the Bethany Beach firehouse amidst much emotion. Warriors each received a handmade quilt from the Quilts of Valor Foundation and a Wounded Warrior Project duffel bag as well as other remembrances, including the opportunity to take home a Poster Pal Project poster that had been most meaningful to them. The Warriors ended the ceremony by presenting a proclamation of thanks, signed by all the VIFs, to the Town of Bethany Beach, accepted by Mayor Jack Gordon. There were emotional goodbyes all around.