Pooler's annual three-mile run to raise awareness and funds for wounded soldiers has turned into a weekend full of community activities and military tributes.
Daniel Defense, a firearms manufacturer, will present the inaugural Patriot Weekend on Sept. 6-7 in Pooler, and all proceeds from the event will benefit the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Stewart.
"We have been the main sponsor for the annual Pooler 5K, and this year, we decided to make a weekend of it," said Matt Allbritton, a marketing specialist for Daniel Defense.
Another sponsor and organizer for the event is First Presbyterian Church of Pooler.
"Patriot Weekend come out of a desire for our church to be engaged in the community and meet a real need, mainly helping soldiers," said John Fender, the church's senior pastor.
"It's a collaboration between our church, Pooler police, Daniel Defense and many others to turn this event into a festival weekend for the city of Pooler," Fender said.
According to Fender, the festival will kick off Sept. 6 with the McDonald's of Pooler Festival and Fireworks Show at the Pooler Park, 900 S. Rogers St. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the event ends after the 9 p.m. fireworks show. The event is free and family friendly.
"Sponsors and vendors will set up booths where people can buy food and drinks and learn about local nonprofits," he said. "Local band, 8 Mile Bend, will play a two-hour concert starting at 6 p.m.
"At approximately 8 p.m., we will have a military tribute," Fender said. "We will have a number of folks who will be there. Major Gen. Murray from the 3ID will be there, as well as representatives from the Wounded Warrior Transition Battalion.
"We'll also present a check to the (Wounded Warrior Transition Battalion) on behalf of everyone involved in Patriot Weekend. It's a chance to speak about the battalion and what they do for wounded, injured or ill soldiers."
The Wounded Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Stewart helps injured soldiers transition back to active duty or into civilian life after combat.
"In the past, they bought a trailer," Fender said. "A lot of soldiers do adaptive sports. We helped them buy a trailer to allow them to go to competitions. They have all their basic needs met, so the money raised is used to buy extras like sports wheelchairs and things to make life easier.
"Last year we raised $20,000. We hope to raise more money with the bigger weekend event planned."
Fender also said the fireworks display will begin around 8:45 p.m. Additional parking will be available at West Chatham Middle School and a free trolley service will be running back and forth.
On Sept. 7, the fourth annual Pooler 5K will take place at West Chatham Middle School, 800 Pine Barren Road.
"We've had over 600 runners the past two years," Fender said. "Soldiers from the Wounded Warrior Transition Battalion run as well for free, for those that are able to run. It's a military-themed race, so you will see a lot of active-duty soldiers running in full gear."
After the race, festivities will head back to Pooler Park for the First Responders Showcase hosted by the Pooler Police Department from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This free event replaces the previous "Night Out" event sponsored by the police department. Fender said money raised from sponsors and vendors at this event will also be donated to the Wounded Warrior Transition Battalion.
"We have about 50 businesses involved in Patriot Weekend, so hopefully we have built an event that will last a long time in Pooler," Fender said.
IF YOU GO
What: Patriot Weekend in Pooler
When: Sept. 6-7; McDonald's of Pooler Festival and Fireworks Show, 5-8 p.m. Sept. 6; Pooler 5K, 8 a.m. Sept 7; First Responders Showcase, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 7
Where: Pooler Park, 900 S. Rogers St. and West Chatham Middle School, 800 Pine Barren Road