By Dustin Luca
---- — While thousands will run to help build a disabled military veteran a new home on Sunday, April 7, a dinner event held two days earlier is expected to increase financial support ten-fold.
Paired with the road race, the Run For The Troops 5k Dinner is already nearing registration capacity with a couple weeks still to go before the event is held, according to co-organizer Bill Pennington.
The dinner is being expanded this year after last year’s event, held in Lowell to support around 200 guests, exceeded building capacity due to the event’s popularity.
This year, the dinner is coming back to Andover — the Wyndham Hotel on Old River Road, positioned to support a crowd of 500, according to Pennington.
“We basically, over the years, continue to grow. We break fire codes wherever we are, because too many people show up,” Pennington said. “This year, we can’t do that anymore. We’re expanding it to 500 people, and I anticipate we’ll have to turn people away because the dinner will be sold out.”
While the race is geared towards increasing awareness for Homes for Our Troops, the dinner has historically been the event to bring in more dollars, organizers have said. Seats are $25, with a $250 price tag for a table of 10.
The event is affordable for most, with the hopes that more will be spent on donations and the event’s silent auctions, according to Pennington.
The event is not all about fundraising, however. With live entertainment and keynote addresses to identify where the fundraising efforts go, attendees will get a direct sense of how Homes For Our Troops helps soldiers, he said.
The event is held partially “so people can really understand this process and understand the generosity of not only the people at the dinner but the plumber, the electricians who came as a donation of their services,” Pennington said.
Brad Campbell, executive director of Home Builders Association in Springfield, will speak about his company’s efforts building the home of Marine Sgt. Josh Bouchard, the beneficiary of last year’s dinner and race.
The event will also feature live entertainment from Bliss, a folk rock band based out of Durham, N.H.
“Last year, it was just incredible to hear the story of a soldier who came home and couldn’t get around his house,” member Kristan Bishop said. “It was a great night. I felt like we really connected with the crowd and this incredibly inspiring story.”
In addition to keynote speakers and live entertainment, the dinner will feature a silent auction with everything from sports tickets and memorabilia to vacation get-aways at places like Lake Winnipesaukee and the Bretton Woods resort.
“We actually have some personal paintings from Joey Smith,” Pennington said, naming the dinner’s beneficiary from 2011.
The dinner will be held at the Wyndham Andover Hotel, 123 Old River Road in Andover, on Friday, April 5 at 6 p.m. For more on the dinner or its paired race, visit runforthetroops5k.com.
Run for the Troops Dinner Benefitting Homes for Our Troops Friday, April 5 Reception 6 p.m., dinner 7 Wyndham Hotel 123 Old River Road, Andover Donations: $25 per person or $250 per table of ten Tickets: runforthetroops5k.com Price includes dinner by Wyndham Andover Hotel, entertainment by the band Bliss, silent auction. guest speaker Brad Campbell, executive director and general contractor for Marine Sgt. Josh Bouchard's house, built in 2012 with some assistance from last year's race.