The National Veterans Museum held what President Joe Cantafio called "the official here we are" gathering Wednesday night at the Chicago Marriott Northwest hotel in Hoffman Estates.
About 130 people -- including members of the National Veterans Museum board of directors, Hoffman Estates Mayor William McLeod and other village officials and a variety of supporters -- came to the free event centered on the proposed 325,000-sqaure-foot museum and surrounding facilities.
Cantafio estimates the entire National Veterans Museum project, which he hopes will be built on more than 200 acres near Beverly Road and I-90 in Hoffman Estates, will cost between $800 million and $1 billion.
"We know a lot of people have brought sponsorship checks to be a part of it," Cantafio said of Wednesday's guests, adding that there were potential donors present. "We invited them, but this is more of, we're opening our arms saying we're here and this is what it's going to look like and these are the people involved."
The event included a cocktail hour and dinner, a flag ceremony and a speech from the museum's chairman, retired General James Conway.
"We won't need your encouragement; there's a lot of enthusiasm in that (National Veterans Museum) board (of directors) ... but from time to time we'll need your support," Conway said during his speech.
Two potential donors at the event were Ed Augustavo and John Wong, principals of Seattle-based .50 Cal Energy. The two are planning to donate five cents from every retail sale of their bullet-shaped energy drink to the museum, and hope to donate an even higher percentage from any online sales of their product.
"We feel our value is not only giving some money, but getting people (to the website) to donate," Augustavo said, adding that they plan, in some capacity, to advertise their partnership with the National Veterans Museum on the drink packaging. "By hooking up with these guys very early it's a great thing for us, it's hopefully a great thing for them."
The pair especially hope their donations will help fund the endowment needed to run the proposed veteran's village, which would include housing for wounded, homeless or financially-troubled veterans.
Actor Mathew St. Patrick, from the HBO show "Six Feet Under," was also present at the event. St. Patrick, like many others, said he was a little surprised when he found out the proposed location for the museum.
"At first I was like wow, that's a little out there, but I also think for the right reasons," he said. "You're in the center of the country ... transportation is really good getting to and from, and I think at the end of the day it gives people on both coasts to get together."
St. Patrick's deceased younger brother was a Marine and that personal connection to the military is just one reason why he hopes to help raise awareness by doing a series of national and regional commercials for the museum.
"I just decided that I wanted to help out in any way I could," he said, adding that he couldn't yet reveal some other ways he might help. "It's a worthy cause."