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The Kiwanis Club of West Racine didn’t let the COVID-19 public health crisis get in the way of an annual Memorial Day tradition this year.
For the past 24 years, club members, led by Mary Willmes and Barb Walker, have produced a public tribute to veterans as part of Racine’s annual Memorial Day parade. They’ve arranged for Kiwanians, who have been military service veterans, to ride in the parade in two cars bearing signs that state “Kiwanis Club of West Racine Salutes Our Veterans.”
The Kiwanians have also annually handled the purchase and distribution of upwards of 1,000 miniature U.S. flags to parade-goers. Adults and kids looked forward to waving their flags as the honored veterans rode past.
But when the 2020 parade was canceled because of public health concerns related to the COVID-19 virus, the West Racine Kiwanians had to come up with another way to keep the Memorial Day message alive.
Instead of distributing the flags to parade watchers, club members placed 160 flags in the front yards of homes along the parade route (West Boulevard and Osbourne Boulevards between Washington Avenue and the Graceland Cemetery entrance). Attached to each flag was a small card bearing this message:
“The parade has been canceled, but the sacrifices made by the brave defenders of our nation will stand forever. We will not forget. Please take time this weekend to respectfully honor those who have given their lives for our country.” – Kiwanis Club of West Racine.
Club members put the flags in the yards on Saturday morning. The homeowners were asked to leave the flags undisturbed until at least midday Monday (May 25) to serve as a visual reminder to people walking or driving along the parade route.
The Kiwanis Club of West Racine donated $1,000 that had been budgeted for the Memorial Day observance to Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin, a local nonprofit that provides services to homeless veterans.