We introduced you to Natasha Heykoop last year on Positively Muskegon. She lost her brother to suicide on Thanksgiving Day in 2015. He had served in the military and the battle never left his mind. It's a story that's sadly all too familiar and all too often not spoken of because of the stigma attached to it. In 2012 the VA issued a report on veteran suicides that said between 18 and 22 veterans commit suicide daily and that sparked a lot of different awareness efforts all based on the number 22. But for Natasha, things hit a little closer to home and she saw a much greater need, more over she wanted to do something locally.
2017 saw the beginning for the Heykoop Veteran Memorial Car Show and Benefit. It was a first year event, being held on a day when nothing was ever really tried on a piece of land that was never really thought of as a "hot spot" for events and it turned out to be a pretty big success. For a first year event to raise nearly $5000 to help any cause, let alone one that's considered "taboo" like veteran suicide is a pretty clear message that a hole needed to be filled and the time for awareness and action is here and now and people are ready for more than words on the subject.
Cars came, bands played, vets were honored and gears were turning. How could the event grow? What could be improved? What could be added to bring in a few more and how could the funds raised be utilized locally? Well, after the first event Natasha and her team went full on and formed their own non profit to work locally to benefit our local veteran community. Once the paperwork got out of the way, Lighthouse for Veterans got to work on this years car show to continue their work to help with things like awareness for those not directly effected by life with a veteran, peer retreats for those who do live with the issues that veterans face and even funeral expenses for veterans families. Anything to help offer a little respite for those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice or those who love them.
This year, cars will come once again to the corner of Getty and Airline, bands will play, vets will be honored, motorcycles will be added people will stroll and we'll see yet another incredible event built just like Muskegon does it. We are incredibly blessed in our neck of the woods to be able to take a tragedy and turn it into a lasting and powerful triumph to make sure that no one faces this kind of nightmare again.
I met up with Natasha to talk about year two for the Heykoop Veteran Memorial Car Show and Benefit, take a listen.
What makes a hero? You just saw. The incredible grief that one family has to endure is turned into hope for others to never have to deal with the same. It's become a community gathering to remember, reflect and hopefully help with the fight when it comes to the struggles faced by those who are still fighting a battle in their mind. Got a show car? Get out the Turtle Wax. Want a destination for the biker group? July 7th right by Babbitt's. Be a part of this incredible endeavor and help Lighthouse for Veterans grow as only Muskegon and the Lakeshore can. This is how we do it! This is what sets our community a part and these are the seedlings of lasting and important events that take subjects out of the shadows and begin to truly heal, both individuals and communities. To learn more, click on the photo below and visit the Lighthouse for Veterans website.