CHARLESTON — Steve Danyluk had just moved to Beaufort and was having breakfast a few years back in a restaurant with a poster from the movie “Forrest Gump” on the wall.
Danyluk, who founded the nonprofit Independence Fund to help wounded vets with powered wheelchairs and therapy, had recently had actor-musician Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band play for a benefit in Dallas.
It got Danyluk wondering. Would Sinise return to the town where much of the movie was filmed and play another concert?
“Within 20 minutes I got a reply. `Set it up,“’ recalled Danyluk, who is in the Marine Corps Reserve.
Now in its third year, the Lt. Dan Weekend has become an established event and expanded in Beaufort, about 70 miles southwest of Charleston.
There are additional events both for the public and the 75 or so wounded vets from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who come from across the country. The highlight of each weekend is the Saturday performance by Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band, which gets its name from the character he played in the movie. In the film, Lt. Dan lost his legs in Vietnam.
New this year is a second concert on Friday at the city’s Waterfront Park, featuring three bands all of which include veterans. There are fishing clinics and fly fishing clinics open to the public.
The vets, who stay at the nearby Palm Key resort with their caretakers for a week, on Tuesday were to observe a 911 memorial. In addition to their annual banquet, they will enjoy a luau and receive instruction in photography from a combat photographer based at the Charleston Air Force Base.
Danyluk says that, if the weather holds, as many as 5,000 people could attend the Lt. Dan Band concert.
He’s pleased with how Beaufort has opened its arms to the event. The city itself this year has agreed to provide about $10,000 in police and other services and waived $4,400 in fees.
The AP left a message at the local chamber of commerce Tuesday seeking comment on the economic impact of the event.
Looking back, Danyluk has one reaction.
“Amazement,” he said. “We asked Gary Sinise to play a concert and now it’s an established event in the community. He hasn’t said no to anything. I’m almost afraid to keep asking. He’s been that great.”
On the Internet:
Lt. Dan Weekend: : http://ldw3.com/
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