SPRING HILL — The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate America's independence. So what better time not only celebrate the nation's freedom but to raise money and honor soldiers who were wounded while fighting for their country?
A Family Freedom Fest to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project kicks off today and continues through Monday at Fun and Wheels Entertainment Park on County Line Road.
The event features games and activities for all ages, including inflatables, water slides, pony rides, carnival food and a beer garden. There will be watermelon and hot dog eating contests, arcade games and prizes. The 10-acre park also has go-carts, batting cages, miniature golf and paintball games.
There will be musical entertainment each night, including Bobby G. Summers, Hovermode, Taylor Eve and the Electrik Fence Blues Band.
The event will not include fireworks, but there will be an area on the grounds where folks can light their own.
The event was organized by Stephanie Danielson, owner of CK-Events and Promotions in Hudson, who has been organizing events for the Wounded Warrior Project for about 10 years.
The Wounded Warrior Project "has gotten so big and wonderful, and I'm glad to be a part of it," she said.
This is Danielson's first local Wounded Warrior event since moving to Florida five years ago. It started as a solo venture that has grown tremendously.
"It is bigger than I am," she said, so she recruited Bob McCaffery, who was the chief of staff to the former lieutenant governor of Nevada, Dr. Lonnie Hammargren, and now Las Vegas Wounded Warrior promoter. He was hesitant but came to help Danielson out nearly two weeks ago.
"I'm a veteran, and I love what those guys do for us," McCaffery said of the veterans whom the event will help.
McCaffery, who is best known for his work as an aviation historian and lecturer on Howard Hughes (he has been part of several History Channel segments on Hughes), has organized numerous events and parades in Las Vegas and, along with Hammargren, built a large mobile memorial wall to honor soldiers who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he claims his help with the local event has been minimal.
"Stephanie does most of the work and bounces stuff off me," McCaffery said. "She really is a sparkler."
McCaffery said that had he been asked nearly two weeks ago how the event was shaping up, he would have been skeptical. "But (Danielson) has gotten so many sponsors now. … If we could raise just $1,000, that would be great."
He thinks that with a good turnout, perhaps $5,000 can be raised for injured veterans.
"We've all just come together, and these doors have opened," Danielson said. "And all proceeds will go to the (Wounded Warrior) Project."
The cause, based in Jacksonville, is a national nonprofit organization that helps injured members of the armed forces and works to "foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded warriors in our history," Danielson said.
"We're quick to forget," she said. "And I just want to bring awareness to our armed forces and what we owe them for our freedom. … We just need to remember, and the Fourth of July is the day to do it."