Wing Fest’s aim serve those who served

For two Wapakoneta businessmen, taking 10 months to organize and coordinate one day of fun for the Wapakoneta area is worth all the days they and their supporters contribute as they make local veterans’ lives easier and more pleasant.
On Thursday, three war veterans took advantage of the latest gift to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Outpatient Clinic in Lima — a new set of chairs. Mike Wyatt and Joe Roller sat and chatted with each other and Courtney Gater about President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote about “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” as Wyatt and Roller waited for appointments.
“I come here about three times a year to see my doctor and these are the most comfortable chairs I have ever sat in,” said Wyatt, of Lima, as he laughs with Gater and Roller that he may just return each day to sit in the chairs. “They are just about as good as the people who work here.”
Gater, who is a volunteer at the clinic, said he assembled the highly cushioned chairs with lumbar support and similar comfortable chairs with an 800-pound limit for
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heavier patients.
The chairs are gifts to the clinic through funds raised by the Wapak Wing Fest, organized by Kris and Todd Ewald. They purchased a dozen chairs for the clinic and intend to purchase another dozen in the near future atthe request of clinic Office Manager Liz Estrada and Nursing Administrator Kim Way.
In the past 18 months, they have used money from Wapak Wing Fests to purchase an office-grade facsimile machine to replace a personal one. They bought blood-pressure cuffs for the examination rooms and an oxygen concentrator.
“You and I just see these as a set of chairs, but it has meant a lot more to the veterans who come here and sit and wait for the examinations,” Kris Ewald said. “Anything we can do to make the veteran’s experience more comfortable, that is going to make their visit a little better then it is all worth it — worth raising that money in a single day.”
Initially, the Ewalds donated the proceeds from the Wapak Wing Fest to the Dayton VA clinic, but then they learned about the Lima outpatient clinic and started working with them.
“If we would do it through their channels it would take a lot longer because they would have to send the money to Dayton and then make a request,” Todd Ewald said. “We can shop for items much faster and we can get them the items directly.
“Typically we get in contact with Liz and have them provide us with a list of the top five or six items they need and they prioritize what is needed most and we get as much as we can,” he said. “When we heard about this clinic, we decided it makes more sense to help them out here because we are helping the local people here more. In return they help us by selling the tickets and attending the event.”
The Ewalds quickly learned they could locate better deals on equipment because they can seek out deals and negotiate a price.
“With helping out the local veterans agency, the whole thing for us has become a lot more personal,” Kris Ewald said. “We are actually buying the items. We bought the oxygenator and the chairs and we don’t have to deal with the red tape. We are helping the veterans out.”
“I am not opposed to anything if it something they need and if it is for the veterans and makes their lives better,” Todd Ewald said. “We owe them so much.”
Estrada said she noticed the veterans take ownership of the gifts and take care of them because “they see this as their clinic, this is where they go and this is their community helping them.” The clinic assists veterans from Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Logan, Mercer, Putnam and Van Wert counties.
The clinic’s staff also appreciates the donations.
“They were thrilled with the blood pressure cuffs, the oxygenator and the fax machine because we are the farthest clinic from the Dayton VA,” Estrada said. “If we want something it may take a couple of days just to get it from Dayton. If we would have something break and need to get it replaced or fixed we would have to spend a couple of days — part of one day to take it down and then part of another day to go pick it up.”
She said the process to buy a new item is much longer.
“The staff likes having the supplies they need because they really want to provide the best care to the veterans, such as the blood pressure cuffs,” Way said. “The veterans have given up their time to the service and it is nice to give them something back.
“The Ewalds do so much for us and we appreciate it, the veterans appreciate it,” she said. “They (veterans) are going down there and spending more money at the Wing Fest and like the fact they see the money they spend down there coming back to them here.”
The sentiment is not lost on the Ewalds.
“They understand what we are trying to do,” Kris Ewald said. “They understand we are trying to supplement the work of the clinic. They know why we are doing this. They served their country, they served in the military for us and this is a small gesture of thanks for them putting their lives on the line.”