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01-27-06, 12:29 PM
Veterans groups helped by Armed Forces Week
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado
Parties, other events will raise money for kids, widows of vets
Scott Miller
January 27, 2006

VAIL — Paul Donen just wanted to help. That help is turning into a pretty big deal.

The big deal, which starts Sunday, is Vail Armed Forces Week, a chance for a few veterans, and, in some cases, their families or widows, to enjoy a few days in Vail. The week is also a chance to raise money for a pair of foundations that help the families and children of the sailors and Marines who don’t come home.

“I felt we had to do something,” Donen said. “We hear about the fighting, but we forget about the residual effects, the children.”

With that in mind, Donen, a former frogman in the South African navy, started looking around for foundations that help the kids of service men and women, as well as for ways to get money to those charities. Vail Armed Forces Week was the result.

About $5,000 was raised last year, the first for the event. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but a charity like the Naval Special Warfare Foundation — which helps Navy SEALs and their families. welcomes every dollar that comes in.

“Last year we gave about $42,000 for scholaships for active-duty personnel, and about the same amount to kids,” said Bob Rieve, President of the Naval Special Warfare Foundation.

“We’re very pleased and happy with the Vail event,” Rieve said. “Paul’s doing this because he cares.”

Donen has a lot of help.

Franklin Boyer has helped raise money for the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, which is how he found out about Vail Armed Forces Week. Boyer, whose family owns several condominiums at the Park Meadows Lodge, soon found himself on the board of the local group and is now working to make the event bigger and better.

“It’s difficult to grow nonprofit organizations,” Boyer said. “Funding is limited, and so are the sources.”

It also helps to have one successful event in the books.

“It was extremely hard last year,” Donen said. “It seems like giving is based on what you’ve done. People aren’t too keen to get into the first event.”

Now that there’s at least a short track record, things are starting to fall into place.

Speakers at this year’s fundraising banquet include Colorado State Senator Tom Weins and Marine Major General Richard F. Natonski.
A handful of World War II veterans will be at the banquet, too, and those who go to the banquet will have plenty of live and silent auction items to bid for to funnel even more money toward the charities.

There will also be a giant chess board and pieces in various places around Vail. People are encouraged to sign the board and pieces, which will then be shipped to Iraq courtesy of Operation Interdepences, an organization that ships letters, games and videos to troops overseas.

With this year’s event coming together, Donen, Boyer and other board members want to keep Vail Armed Forces Week on the winter calendar.
“We’re going to make it bigger and better,” Boyer said. “There are a lot of great causes out there, and we’re one of them.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or smiller@vaildaily.com.