Hospitalized veterans enjoy seeing classic cars
When you go to an excess number of judged car shows, before long you'll become too focused on one thing -- going home with a sparkling new trophy. This can cause you to lose sight of one of the main tenants of the collector car hobby: showing your ride for the enjoyment of others.
One area event that prioritizes that altruistic feeling -- gathering vehicles for a worthy audience -- is the annual classic car show at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago.
Volunteers and employees of the center, located at Naval Station Great Lakes, have worked to put on the July event for the past nine years with the simple focus of bringing classic cars out for the veterans who reside there to look at and admire. During the show, volunteers will assist veterans or push wheelchairs up and down the rows, allowing our servicemen and servicewomen to get up close with the gleaming vintage machines.
Haley McLaughlin, an automotive enthusiast, Marine veteran and hospital employee, had the initial idea for the show. "Anything to make a vet smile is my motivation. I know for a fact, most love cars and they just light up when they see something they've owned."
She assembled some fellow car friends and for the first year gathered just over 50 cars to fill the lot. That number has now grown to an average turnout of more than 200 cars.
Another key figure is the event organizer, Ken List. "It's truly a win-win for both owners and vets," he said. "The vets go through the (parking) lots and tell you cheerfully what cars they used to have. It brings back good times for them. The car owners get to see their faces full of immense appreciation and enjoyment."
In addition to members of the Lovell Community Affairs department and Recreation staff, other community groups pitch in to make the event a success. Members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and the Elks Club assist by passing out free, freshly grilled hot dogs and brats along with other lunch items to all who attend.
While 300 veterans live on-site, even with volunteer assistance, only about one-third are physically able to get outside to scope out the rolling iron. Just as in the armed forces, those who remain aren't forgotten and left behind; at the close of the show, all of the classic vehicles are slowly driven in a long parade formation along a route that passes the room windows of the hospital, ensuring even more war heroes have a chance to see their favorite vehicles.