Veterans from across Long Island and New York City sang along to performances of songs such as “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang, “Oh What a Night” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John at the Elks Lodge in Lynbrook last month.
The sounds were part of the annual Veterans Show hosted by the Elks members, who invite veterans from VA hospitals in Northport, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx to have a meal and watch the performances each year.
“We could hear the veterans singing along,” said Mike Stuparich, a member of the Elks and the chairman of the Veterans Show committee. “The best part about the whole thing is seeing that and their reactions.”
About 125 people attended the event, which had a “Sounds of the 70s” theme this year. Members of the lodge and their families volunteered to sing songs ranging from classic rock to disco, and they also performed skits for the veterans.
Stuparich said the show has been put on annually for 50 years. It started out as an event among the members to have fun, but eventually morphed into a show to entertain the veterans. Veterans who served in World War II up through the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were in attendance this year.
“It’s something good to give back,” Stuparich said. “The veterans look forward to it every year. It’s good just to promote that and it gives everybody a sense of giving something back to the veterans. It doesn’t have to be isolated to the members.”
Stuparich’s family was also involved in the entertainment. His nieces Kerry, 16, and Kayla, 13, were the two youngest members to perform this year. He said it was a joy to see the veterans not only get out of the hospital, but to clap, sing and smile. “That’s really what it’s all about,” he said.
He noted that one highlight was seeing one of the assistants get out of her chair and dance with the veterans. Stuparich added that the food is all supplied and prepared by the Elks in-house and is provided to any veteran who attends.
“It’s giving something back to the veterans for their service,” he said. “They look forward to this every single year.”
Stuparich is already looking forward to the 2019 event. He said that this year, he had volunteers go table to table asking veterans for their favorite songs, which will be put onto a playlist and performed next year. “It will be a salute to our veterans,” he said. “We’ll really make it all about them.”