By Cindy Hoffman
(March 16, 2023) The Worcester County Veterans Memorial Foundation fundraiser went off without a hitch, even with the original entertainer, Tony Pace, pulling out less than a month before the big day.
The foundation did not announce who was to replace Tony Pace in advance, saying only that it would be a top-notch entertainer from Atlantic City. Guests were not disappointed by Gerard Esposito, who entertained them with songs from Vegas to Broadway.
“Gerald Esposito was wonderful. He was a good match for the group. He played the music we like to hear.” said Sharyn O’Hare, event organizer. “Everyone was dancing, there was even a conga line. One person said they felt like they were on a cruise.”
The foundation reported that 130 tickets were sold for the event at $70 each. The final total of funds collected was not available. Gilmore said they have not tallied expenses yet.
Matt Ortt, whose company operates the restaurants for the Ocean Pines Association, attended the event and donated $1,000 on behalf of himself, his wife, Matt Ortt Companies and his employees.
Ortt told the audience that his father is a Marine.
“What my father taught me has led me to today: about strength and courage and taking care of each other. It takes a community to do what we do,” Ortt said. “I am very happy to be part of this community. You have become family to me.”
The funds will allow the organization to provide every fifth grader in Worcester public and private schools and homeschool students the opportunity to go on a field trip to the memorial.
During the trip, volunteer docents will teach them about the purpose of the memorial and what it means to be a veteran.
“We teach students about the sacrifices of veterans and their families as well as the history and etiquette of the flag,” said Marie Gilmore, president of the Worcester County Veterans Memorial Foundation. “We are extremely proud of this award-winning program. A few years ago, we received an award for outstanding education program in the state of Maryland. At that time, we were told it is probably still the only program of its kind in the United States.”
The field trips run from May through October and educate approximately 650 students each year.
This year, as part of the education and outreach program, the foundation produced a video called Heroes All, which teaches students about the various branches of the military, the nation’s conflicts, and the memorial.
A new student activity booklet will also be provided to participants this year.
“The booklet is meant to go home with each student after they visit, so they can begin a conversation at home with their parents,” Gilmore said.
“You would be surprised that during those conversations, they first realize that their grandparent or their aunt or uncle or their father was in the military,” she added. “A lot of servicemen, when they come home from the war years, they don’t want to talk about it anymore. It’s very important for the students to learn about the sacrifices that their family has made to support our freedoms.”