More than 1,000 community members and businesses poured into Papa's On The Lake Saturday to help firefighters raise thousands of dollars for veterans.
Conroe Professional Firefighters Association President Lloyd Sandefer estimates the "successful" Seventh Annual Fire up the Bands raised at least $13,500 through a live auction and pre-ticket sales. However, organizers believe even more funds were raised by attendees from Willis to Houston who came out to see this year's lineup, which included Josh Ward, Dirty River Boys, Josh Fuller, Scooter Brown Band and Casey Royer.
"We feel really proud to do it," said Sandefer, who said last year's event raised more than $25,000 for the The Rotary Firefighters Home and has raised funds for various causes in the past, including more than $15,000 for MDA. He said the association meets with title sponsor First Financial Bank each year to decide which cause to support next. The VFW is the first military cause the event has been held for and the Post was chosen because of their demonstrated efforts within the local community, he said.
The post's former commander, and now quartermaster, John Tellier said its the VFW's mission to serve the community, including veterans, firefighters,first responders and schoolchildren through education, resources and events. He said the members were humbled when firefighters chose to support the veterans.
"We were really touched when they reached out to us to do a fundraiser," Tellier said. "It shows us what we do in the community is felt and appreciated. We feel blessed to have a community that is so pro-veterans and firefighters, which is absolutely not the norm nationwide. It's going to be hard for us to truly express how thankful we are to the firefighters and people at the event who came out to support."
Event attendees were greeted by a large American flag raised by a fire truck ladder outside the venue and experienced a military flyover by the Freedom Flyers.
"It was fun, exciting, good music, good entertainment," said Montgomery resident Derek Geisler, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1998 to 2002. "I think that's awesome (that the event is supporting the post). Being prior military, I think that is a great cause."
Among several items, bidders had a chance to buy an autographed guitar by Josh Ward, which title sponsor First Financial Bank bought for $1,100 and donated back to be sold for another $900 to Spring resident Cody Eberhardt, who has attended the event for at least four years.
"It's always so supportive," Eberhardt said. "Community gets together, it's always close-knit, and it's the least we can do."
First Financial Bank has supported the event for at least six years.
"It's one of the great charitable events that happens in Conroe," said First Financial Bank President Sam Baker, who joined his wife Wynn Dee at the event. "We felt like it was a way we could reach a great amount of people and at the same time support the firemen and be associated with such a great cause. These guys work hard and they get behind great charities. ... At the end of the day, it is all about giving back."Montgomery resident K.B. Billingsley, whose business is Heavy Duty Bus Parts and Ultra LED Lighting, also supported the event, including with a winning $3,000 bid for a large barbecue pit hoisted high by a group of firefighters and donated by Wilke's Badass Pits.
"I believe in their cause and what their doing to support our community in their ventures," Billingsley said.
For more information about Fire up the Bands, email Conroe Professional Firefighters Association President Lloyd Sandefer at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about VFW Post 4709, visit www.vfw4709.org.