American Veterans Alliance of McHenry County kicks off with Super Bowl Bash, aims to create vets’ hub

Group hopes to establish a drop-in space for veterans and families

The American Veterans Alliance – consisting of the Woodstock VFW Post 5040, the Woodstock American Legion and the McHenry County Marine Corps League – kicked off with a Super Bowl Bash Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Woodstock. The group aims to open a veterans hub.

The American Veterans Alliance – consisting of the Woodstock VFW Post 5040, the Woodstock American Legion and the McHenry County Marine Corps League – kicked off with a Super Bowl Bash Sunday in Woodstock.

The nascent nonprofit is hoping to eventually build a veterans’ hub in Woodstock. The group is seeking to raise funds for the space, and hopes to collaborate with other veterans’ groups, such as the Veterans Assistance Commission.

The party was held at 120 Events in the former VFW space, which the post had moved out of this past fall.

“Nostalgic, I’ll say that,” Woodstock VFW Commander Fred Strauss said about the Super Bowl Bash being held in the post’s old stomping grounds.

At the event, there were gift basket raffles and other fundraisers for the group. Rick Prescott, the second commandant of the McHenry County Marine Corps League, said over 80 local businesses made donations, and thanked the businesses for their support.

The American Veterans Alliance – consisting of the Woodstock VFW Post 5040, the Woodstock American Legion and the McHenry County Marine Corps League – kicked off with a Super Bowl Bash Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Woodstock. The group aims to open a veterans hub.

Businesses including Anytime Fitness and Country Donuts made donations included in gift baskets that were raffled off with Super Bowl-themed names such as “Brock Purdy,” after the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback, and “Arrowhead Stadium,” after the home stadium of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Attendees at the American Veterans Alliance Super Bowl Bash Feb. 11, 2024

“We wanted to have a little operating money,” said Woodstock American Legion Commander Lou Ness, who is also a McHenry County Board member.

While the Chiefs and 49ers were competing in the Super Bowl in Las Vegas, about half a dozen chili chefs were battling for bragging rights and Victorinox knives in the chili cook-off at the Woodstock event. Two victorious chefs went home with the knives: the winner of the popular vote and the chef’s vote.

Jason Hertha, known as The Semper Fi Chef, judged the chili.

“I’m more of a purist,” Hertha said of what he’s looking for in the chili, adding he was looking at such criteria as taste and texture.

Michael Breslin, who said he gets advice from Hertha, won the judge’s choice award.

“It was really exciting,” Breslin said.

Breslin said he used chopped meat in his recipe because that had better texture and described his chili as “a lot of heat on the bite with no burning.”

A sign welcoming attendees to the American Veterans Alliance Super Bowl Bash Feb. 11, 2024.

Georgeann Koster won the popular vote for the chili cook-off. She said she always puts macaroni in her chili.

“I was shocked,” she said of winning the people’s choice award.

Ness said that the group is looking at places in Woodstock to locate the new facility it hopes to open, but doesn’t have one yet. She said the group will embark on other formal fundraising efforts in the spring, including launching a capital campaign around April or May.

She added the American Veterans Alliance is hoping to have a place in Woodstock that can be used for Post meetings but also has a drop-in space for McHenry County veterans and families.

“We really want to engage with the veterans’ families as well as the veteran,” Ness said.

Prescott said the facility will be veterans-oriented. He said there won’t be a bar or anything like that in the space.