Thunder for the Wreaths convoy to travel from Hampton to Americus, Saturday, May 15
AMERICUS – On Saturday, May 15, the third annual Thunder for the Wreaths will begin at 9 a.m. at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton with a short ceremony. This convoy of 150 custom cars and motorcycles, along with three custom-wrapped tractor trailers and the Atlanta Motor Speedway Pace Car, will take one lap around the AMS track before departing down US Highway 19 from Hampton to Americus in order to raise funds for Wreaths Across America; an organization that spearheads an effort to lay wreaths on the graves of thousands of fallen veterans at various military cemeteries every year on the Saturday before Christmas. This event is also being done to honor both the first responders and the military.
Lee Gentry, Executive Vice President of Bennett International Group, LLC, told the Americus Times-Recorder that his company, along with the Taylor Foundation, is trying to raise enough money through the Thunder for the Wreaths event so that enough wreaths can be purchased and laid at all 20,300 grave sites at Andersonville National Cemetery on Saturday, December 18 of this year.
“All of the people who are participating in the convoy had to pay to be in that, convoy,” Gentry said. “But all of those funds go towards purchasing the wreaths.”
According to Gentry, the Taylor Foundation was formed by Marcy Taylor, the owner of Bennett International Group, LLC or the Bennett Family of Companies. “She (Taylor) formed a group called the Taylor Foundation,” Gentry said. “We take 10 percent of our earnings and place it in there and then we take that money and we provide grants to companies, Christian organizations, children’s organizations, we try to help folks and we contribute to Wreaths Across America for Andersonville. We contribute every year from the Taylor Foundation so everything goes to them and then we write a check to Wreaths Across America and the proceeds go to help buy wreaths for Andersonville,” Gentry continued.
Gentry went on to say that for those who would like to donate to the cause, the best way for them to do so is to go to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/ga0213. “That takes you right to the Bennett Taylor Foundation website for Wreaths Across America and Andersonville,” Gentry said.
According to Gentry, this is the third annual Thunder for the Wreaths convoy, but this year will mark the first time ever that the convoy will come to Americus. “We usually do Thunder for the Wreaths in Henry County, but we changed it this year,” Gentry said. “This will be our third annual, but we’re going to do it coming to Americus. We need some additional support, so we’re bringing it here.”
Gentry added that while this will be the first time ever that the Thunder for the Wreaths convoy will come to Americus, this year will be the fourth year come December 18, 2021 that Bennett International Group, LLC, the Taylor Foundation and Wreaths Across America will be bringing the wreaths to Andersonville.
According to Gentry, Phil DeSouza, the Vice President for Maintenance and Security for Bennett, came up with the idea of having a Thunder for the Wreaths convoy to raise awareness and to raise funds for Wreaths Across America.
Gentry went on to say that as long as the Taylor Foundation gets the support from the local community here in Americus and throughout Sumter County, they would like to make the convoy to Americus an annual event. “When I talked to everybody here…the Chief of Police and the Sumter County Sheriff, they’re hoping that we make this an annual event,” Gentry said. “I hope to do it again next year because you’ve got to start momentum somewhere, right? So this is the first year coming here. It might take a couple of years to get everybody knowing that we’re coming.”
Gentry went on to say that after the convoy makes the one lap around the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it will make the turn down US Highway 19 South from Hampton to Americus and will have a police escort all the way to the Sumter County Fairgrounds.
The convoy is expected to arrive at the fairgrounds at 11:30 a.m. Once the convoy arrives, there will be a festival at the fairgrounds that will include something for all ages. There will be vendors, a giant air slide for the children, raffle items, educational materials and a flying museum courtesy of the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, who will have a genuine UH1H Huey Helicopter on site. Rides in the helicopter will be available for purchase. Representatives from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, the Americus Police Department and Sumter County Fire and Rescue will be on hand for adults and the youth of the community to interact with.
At 1 p.m., the annual Fallen Officer Memorial will take place on the fairgrounds. This is a powerful and moving ceremony that is done to pay homage to the local officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty while serving the community.