A couple hundred people gather at the Willowbrook Ballroom in Willow Springs for a night of music, dancing and, more importantly, dedication. Tonight’s four-hour event was put together to promote and raise money for Flowers for Heroes, a not-for-profit organization based in Elmhurst and founded by Russ Phillip, owner of Russwholesaleflowers.com. The group raises money not only to put flowers on every gravestone in every military cemetery but also to give back and support Gold Star Families—an organization whose members are families of fallen soldiers.
Flowers, which started in March of this year, placed 26,000 stems on 5,000 stones in Gettysburg on the Fourth of July and plans to do the same on the 6,500 stones at Antietam in September.
“We say no one left behind,” Phillip says. Tonight’s event is one of many ways Phillip and his team are trying to get the word out. Bill Rohdes, whose band Del Souls usually hosts a monthly Route 66 music and dance night at the ballroom, decided to dedicate this night to raising money for Flowers for Heroes.
“I think the country is poised and ready to do something but they don’t quite know how,” Rohdes says about giving back to the troops.
“Everybody loves it,” vice president of Flowers for Heroes Midge Ripoli says about the reaction the group has received. “These people need our help and the government isn’t helping them the way they should.”
Flowers is the only group of its kind, Phillip says. He is confident the group will grow and succeed and in four to five years will be on the front lawn of the White House. “Neither of us were ever in the service,” Ripoli says. “But when we met the people, the one thing they said they wanted was for their son or daughter to not be forgotten.” (Beth Wang)