VetFest 2023 will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Veterans Assistance Commission of Will County, 2400 Glenwood Ave., Joliet.
Features of the day include a bearcat pull (sign up on site), axe throwing (must be 10 and older), bags tournament, raffle baskets, face painting, bounce house, Mission BBQ food truck, resources for veterans and live music by Ukulele Moonshiners.
Proceeds from the event benefits K9s for Veterans and the Joliet Police Department’s Battle Buddies.
Officers with the Battle Buddies program connect with veterans to prevent crises and after they experience negative events, the Joliet Police Department said.
Jen Solum, superintendent of Will County Veterans Commission, said the goal is to “let the community know where available resources are.”
“We wanted to raise awareness in the community specifically about mental health and suicide prevention and awareness,” Solum said. “We’re more aware of it today and there are more resources available. As the wars are winding down and people are getting out of service – people who have been in combat and are coming back to the civilian sector – did not have resources when they were in the military.
“Mental health still has so much of a stigma; they [veterans] hesitate to reach out for help. We’re seeing issues with substance abuse as a coping skill if they’re not getting treatment. That has a snowball effect. We want to work more on the preventative aspect and not the reactive side of it.”
Resources for Will County veterans
Solum said many people don’t realize all the community partners the Veterans Assistance Commission of Will County has, the varied services the commission offers and the counselors that provide one-on-one or group therapy.
Many people don’t know that the commission acquired a cane corso therapy dog named Charli about 18 months ago, Solum said.
“She is 100% of a slobbering mess, and she’s still growing,” Solum said. “She is a gentle giant.”
Solum said K9s for Veterans helped with Charli’s training.
But veterans need more than resources, Solum said. Veterans need to know the community supports them. That’s why an event built around veterans’ mental health has fun aspects to it.
“It takes the entire community to support a veteran,” Solum said. “We want people to come out with their kids, with their neighbors. So a bounce house is one way to encourage people to come out. Really, probably almost everyone knows a veteran or has a neighbor that’s a veteran or seen a veteran on the side of the road holding up a sign. I don’t think this [event] should be pigeon-hole to just veterans. I think this is a community issue.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: VetFest 2023
WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Veterans Assistance Commission of Will County, 2400 Glenwood Ave., Joliet
ETC: Bearcat pull, axe throwing (must be 10 and older). bags tournament, raffle baskets, face painting, bounce house, Mission BBQ food truck, resources for veterans and live music by Ukulele Moonshiners. Benefits K9s for Veterans and the Joliet Police Department’s Battle Buddies
INFO: Call the Veterans Assistance Commission of Will County at 815-740-8389 or visit veteransassistancewillco.org.