‘Love of Our Soldiers’ fund raiser today
For the Love of Our Soldiers will be held today at Jaycee Park, with the proceeds to go toward the restoration of the Iwo Jima Statue at Eco Park.
The event, which runs from 5-9 p.m., is a joint effort between several local groups and the family and friends of Craig T. Fuller. Fuller, 33, was ambushed and killed on April 25, 2009, in a roadside attack in Afghanistan. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps overseas before returning to the country to work as a private contractor. Fuller had worked there five years before he was killed.
In an effort to honor Fuller’s memory, his family and friends decided to raise funds to restore the Iwo Jima Statue. The statue meant a lot to Fuller and he constantly talked about fixing it. He even bought a memorial brick for himself after he left the Marines. The bricks are found at the base of the monument.
For the Love of Our Soldiers will kick off with an opening ceremony at 5 p.m. to honor all branches of the military. There will be a flyover, a presentation of the colors and singing of the national anthem. Free admission and parking.
“It is a family, good time,” said Joe Sabella, a friend of Fuller and his family. “Ultimately, it’s a chance to gather in the community and be together with your families, but the underlying premise is to restore the Iwo Jima Statue.”
According to officials, the monument has more than 150 cracks and one of the soldier’s legs is being held together with zipties. Details like the soldiers’ fingers and hands need to be reworked and the statue needs to be repainted. The restoration, the third one for the statue, will cost $85,000.
The For the Love of Our Soldiers team, with the help of the Cape Coral Community Foundation, has created the “Craig T. Fuller Iwo Jima Statue Restoration Fund.” The fund contained about $40,000 as of Thursday.
“One man made a $25,000 donation,” Cape Coral Community Foundation Executive Director Beth Sanger said, adding that the man wished to remain anonymous but had said that he had fought on Iwo Jima during World War II.
The statue, created by sculptor Felix de Weldon, is modeled after a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Joe Rosenthal that is called “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.” It is one of three original de Weldon pieces, according to officials.
“When it is about that particular war and what those men went through, it’s amazing,” Sanger said. “I think it’s very special to a lot of people.”
Attendees to Saturday’s event can buy tickets or a Freedom Bracelet to enjoy the activities and rides. Sabella said the activities and rides will range from $1 to $3, while a bracelet will give the wearer unlimited access to the:
n D-Box Auto Racing Simulator
n Marine Fitness Course
n Inflatable Slide
n Dunk Tank
n Cape Coral Police Department Mobile Command Unit Tours
n Fire Truck Tours
A bracelet, available for $12 at the door or in advance, also comes with one fingerprinting and DNA kit and a Meet and Greet with McGruff the Crime Dog.
To buy in advance, call the Cape Coral Community Foundation at 542-8307.
There will also be a Guitar Hero tournament, and finalists have chance to win gaming gift certificates of $300, $100 and $50. Other activities will include a corn hole competition, caricatures, face painting and an Old Skool Road Show. Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Earnest Graham will sign autographs from 5-7 p.m.
“I think Earnest Graham is a monument in himself. He is a celebrity, he is an icon,” Sabella said. “I just think he’s be continuing his good cause. I just think he’s a generous guy helping out as well as a local Cape Coral guy. It’s just his way of giving back to the community.”
Graham is a graduate of Mariner High School.
There also will be raffles held Saturday. Some items up for grab are a football autographed by Graham, a one-week stay in a cabin in the North Carolina Smokey Mountains, a gift certificate for two at the Bubble Room, massage gift certificates, a golf package and more.
According to Sabella, more than 2,000 people are expected to attend.
“Just going off of past city experiences and from the amount of marketing that we’re done, they felt that was a very safe estimate,” he said. “And just from the amount of support that we’ve already gotten.”
Fuller’s father, Gerald Fuller, and stepmother, Roberta Fuller, will be manning a booth at Saturday’s event. The booth will be set up with a movie of Fuller playing, along with his memorabilia. Fuller’s mother also will be present selling T-shifts, Sabella said.
“I know they’re very very honored,” he said of the family.
The groups working to raise funds for the restoration are the For the Love of Our Soldiers team, the Oasis Elementary Charter School’s second-grade class, the Marine Corps League and Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation.
To donate to the Craig T. Fuller Iwo Jima Statue Restoration Fund, contact the Cape Coral Community Foundation or visit the fund’s website online at: capecoralcf.planyourlegacy.org. Donors can also check at: craigtfuller.com.