Wreaths Across America, which men like Mike Calenda will tell you “has become the world’s largest veteran’s parade,” is looking for your help.
On Friday, Oct. 25, Calenda, who is a former Johnston Police officer and now teaches social studies at Ponaganset High School – and the local committee for Wreaths Across America, will host an important beer and wine tasting inside the Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post 2812 located on Plainfield Street on the Cranston-Johnston line.
Tickets are $20 per person for the event which is being hosted by the Ponaganset High Football Boosters Club and coordinated by Calenda and his committee which is made up of many Johnston residents like Vin LaFazia, a Vietnam War Veteran who recently explained “proceeds from this event will again ensure that wreaths are placed on every grave in Arlington National Cemetery in December.”
The beer and wine tasting, which is also being sponsored by Judi and David Graham who own and operate Graham Builders and who are key figures in the highly-successful Johnston Memorial Cancer Events and Tri-Town Wine & Spirits, will run from 7-9 p.m. and feature food, raffle prizes and more.
“We hope people will join us on October 25 to remember, honor and teach our students as we prepare to host the WAA’s annual pilgrimage from Harrington, Maine to Arlington National cemetery,” Calenda went on. “We want to reinforce the WAA mission: Remember the fallen, honor those who served and teach our children the values of freedom.”
Thus, Calenda said the story of how Wreaths across America was founded is as “touching, heartwarming and as fascinating” as the actual local ceremony that will take place on Dec. 10 and attract upwards of 2,000 people to the spacious fieldhouse at Ponaganset High School.
Back when Merrill Worcester, who now owns Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12-year-old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News, he won a trip to Washington, DC for entering an essay contest that became a tourney he would never forget especially after visiting the Arlington National Cemetery that made a life-long last impression on him.
That experience followed Worcester, who became a tree farmer, throughout his life and successful career and reminded him of the values of the nation and veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
So, in 1992, the Worcester Wreath Company had a surplus of 5,000 towards the end of the holiday season and remembering his childhood experience at Arlington National Cemetery, Worcester made arrangements through the help of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe for the wreaths to be placed in one of the older sections of the cemetery.
Then, back in 2005 when a photo of snow covering stones and wreaths at Arlington went viral, Wreaths across America came into being and has grown in popularity around the country ever since.
That’s why Calenda, the Grahams, La Fazia and all-volunteer committee are hoping to sell out the Kelley-Gazzerro VW Post 2812 for next Friday’s beer and wine tasting. For more information or tickets, please call Calenda at (401) 256-7384, Graham at (401) 497-2954, LaFazia at 233-2564 or Tri-Town Wine & Spirits at (401) 232-7700.
“We are also looking for individual and corporate sponsors to support the Dec. 10 WAA program,” Calenda noted. “We have a Gold level for $250 and Silver for $100. Those persons or companies who make sponsorships will have their names prominently displayed on the WWA Major Donor board.”
He also noted that people planning to purchase tickets must do so in advance and that all checks should be made payable to the Ponaganset Football Boosters.