Volunteers help build pavilion at camp for handicapped vets

News-DemocratSeptember 28, 2013 

What were a bunch of guys from the Millstadt area doing wandering around the back country near Farmington, Mo.?

They were looking for Camp Hope, a handicapped hunting and fishing retreat for veterans where they wanted to volunteer. They also were lost.

After seeing a lot more of Missouri than they intended, they eventually found the camp and then went back several more times, building a pavilion.

Ron Schaefer, chairman of fundraising for the project, sponsored by VFW Post 805 in O'Fallon, said the camp is pretty hard to find.

"We went to see what it was about", he said. "It was a gorgeous place in a spectacular setting. But we thought what it needed was a focal point where everyone could gather before or after a day of hunting and fishing."

That's where the pavilion came in.

The camp is dedicated to Christopher White, son of William "Mike" and Galia White, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2006. The family opened the nonprofit camp in 2007 to provide a handicapped accessible retreat for combat-wounded soldiers.

Ron's brother, Glenn Schaefer, and Harold Hughes designed the new addition, called the Sandy Bereitschaft Memorial Pavilion in honor of volunteer Jim Bereitschaft's wife who was very active in helping veterans before she died.

Rich Weygandt, Dan Blue, Kevin Schilling, Bill Chitty, Dan Cushman, Bob Dohrman, Jim Touchette and Butch Bertelsman from the Millstadt area, along with Jerry Wells from Bonne Terre, Mo., all helped build it.

"Nobody would take a dime to help," Schaefer said. "But there was such great camaraderie. It was a great experience. We had a lot of fun."

The O'Fallon VFW pitched in with a fundraiser. The men made an initial survey trip and completed a layout. There were a couple of workdays to pour concrete and a couple more for building.

Schaefer said the pavilion shell was finished in August and the roof went on a week or so ago.

On Sunday, the post will sponsor an open house for supporters. Twenty-five people who bought space on plaques to go on the pavilion will go down by bus to visit the camp.

Schaefer said the project was part of a grassroots program at the O'Fallon VFW called the Veterans Integration Program or VIP.

"We help veterans with about anything," he said.

He said they figured that anyone coming out of the service might find some difficult.

The program gets furniture which didn't sell at auction from a local auctioneer and distributes it to needy veterans. It also came up with the money to provide an expensive outdoor equipped wheelchair for a veteran.

"We figured we would do whatever we could," Schaefer said.

The cost to donate a plaque to the camp pavilion is $100. For more information you can email dvcushman1@att.net or call Schaefer at the O'Fallon VFW, 624-6575.

For more information about Camp Hope you can visit the website: camphopeusa.org.

Have a column idea? Call Wally Spiers at 618-239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: wspiers@bnd.com.

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