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Volunteers plan picnic to honor war veterans

NIAGARA FALLS – A group of volunteers who believe veterans should be made to feel special is trying to make that happen next weekend.

The second annual Veterans’ Appreciation Picnic, open to all veterans and their families as well as the general public, will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday in the John Duke Senior Center, 1201 Hyde Park Blvd.

The event will feature free food, free haircuts and massages and live music. Attendees also will be able to search for any unclaimed military medals. Veterans and their families get in for free. There’s a suggested donation of $5 for everyone else.

It’s the brainchild of Kristin A. Jacobsen, a chiropractor from Lewiston with a practice on Pine Avenue in the Falls. She’s the founder and president of Hands Healing Heroes, which is sponsoring the event.

Jacobsen said she thinks veterans should be made to feel like superheroes for the sacrifices they made.

“It’s not about politics, it’s about who we are as a country and what we can do,” Jacobsen said.

She said she feels there’s been a lack of patriotism in this country in her lifetime, and added that she remembers the unity and patriotism just after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“For a brief time in history, we were one nation, united under God,” she said.

That’s why the event is held the weekend after Sept. 11, she said.

Jacobsen, who already has been offering free chiropractic services at her Pine Avenue practice to veterans injured on active duty, said she was inspired to do more for veterans as she ran a half-marathon last year. At the race’s first water station, there was a group of veterans handing out cups of water.

After having already sacrificed so much, these veterans were standing out in the heat. She said that made her think of the various struggles veterans face.

Vets and their families who attend the event will receive a free gift.

There also will be prizes given away as part of a raffle. Tickets will be sold for $5 per sheet, or $20 for five sheets.

“We’re trying to give away as much as possible,” Jacobsen said.

At last year’s event, also held at the John Duke center, a woman whose brother died while serving in Afghanistan used the computer-based medal search to find out he had five unclaimed medals. If that was the only thing to have come out of the event, it still would have been worth it, Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen, whose father was a Marine, also said she has always been intrigued and perplexed by war, especially the psychology of it.

She said she hopes everyone will think of doing something nice for a veteran they know, even someone who just lives down the street.

“Doing something for them again to recognize and respect what they’ve done for us,” she said.

Her organization is expecting to obtain nonprofit status soon, she said.

Anyone interested in donating or volunteering during the event should call 282-2225.