Scents for Soldiers bringing 50 ill, injured veterans on 13th holiday trip

By the Editorial Board

Before Military Appreciation Days began in Myrtle Beach, the nonprofit organization Scents for Soldiers started holidays at the beach for wounded servicemen and women in military hospitals. This Memorial Day weekend, Scents for Soldiers has invited 50 ill and injured military service members on its 13th four-day holiday trip.

Christina Shealy, founder of Scents for Soldiers, and Dennise Nickelson will ride a chartered bus to the Washington area on May 26 and begin welcoming guests aboard the bus at 5:45 a.m. May 27 at Bethesda/Walter Reed Medical Center and an hour later at Fort Belvoir, Va. The bus will arrive at the S.C. Welcome Center in Little River and be escorted to a welcome party at The Train Depot in Myrtle Beach.

The guests will stay at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel. They’ll watch and some will ride on floats in the Memorial Day parade on Saturday, see Legends in Concert and enjoy nightlife at Broadway at the Beach, participate in a day on the water on Sunday and be part of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Convention Center on Monday. Tuesday, they return to Fort Belvoir and Bethesda.

As is the case in so many good causes in our area, an impressive number of organizations and businesses will be hosts for the visiting warriors. The hosts include the city of Myrtle Beach, the Grand Strand chapter of MOAA (Military Officers Association of America); A & I Fire and Water Restoration; American Legion Post 178; the Moose Lodge on Burcale Road; Capt. Tamie’s; Dunkin Donuts; Benjamin’s Bagels; John’s Restaurant; and others including Scents volunteers and many individual financial supporters.

Nickelson’s husband was on one of the first trips, in 2010. She recalled that he had a leg wound that would not heal, but started healing after he was in the ocean during the trip. “I was worried about bacteria,” she says. Shealy visited recovering injured servicemen in Washington in 2007. The name of the nonprofit she founded comes from her taking scents of holidays to the hospitalized veterans, to remind them of holidays.

Scents for Soldiers put together holiday trips in 2009 and 2010, and in 2011 started two trips every year. Fundraising has gone well for this year’s Memorial Day trip. “It’s looking really good so far,” Nickelson says. Sponsors are needed for T-shirts, pizza and soda for the welcome party and candy for float riders to throw during the parade. As it has done in the past, the MOAA chapter and A & I are sponsoring two parade floats. Twelve to 14 of the visiting servicemen and women will be on each of the two floats.

“We’ve been doing really good” on fundraising, Nickelson says. The outstanding support from the community for the trips means that Scents can spend nearly all (96 percent) of its funds directly on the guests. The small amount of overhead is for gas, lodging and food for volunteers. No one in Scents for Soldiers receives a salary. Especially since news reports about salaries and expenses of some national veteran-related groups, Nickelson and Shealy want potential Scents for Soldiers supporters to know the nonprofit is all volunteer.

With outstanding support from the community here, Scents for Soldiers continues to provide relaxing vacations from hospitalization for ill or injured military veterans.

Some sponsors needed for May 27-31 visit

Scents for Soldiers has sponsors for most of the May 27-31 Military Appreciation Days trip, but is looking for sponsors for the following: T-shirts for the anticipated 50 guests; hard candy to throw from floats during the Saturday parade; pizzas and soft drinks for the Friday May 27 welcome party.

To provide or sponsor these items, contact Scents for Soldiers volunteer Dennise Nickelson at 240-342-0074