A new community respite program for the state’s National Guard members will be hosted by the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce beginning in February.
Modeled after a similar chamber program held in 2002 for first responders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, this year’s program will allow National Guard service members to visit Saratoga for a weekend getaway with their families. All participating service members were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan sometime within the last 10 years and many were severely wounded.
“We are excited to announce that over 160 soldiers, along with their families, will be visiting our county between Feb.1 and April 30 of next year,” said the Chamber’s Vice President of Member Services Denise Romeo. “So in total we are expecting over 350 people to participate.”
The program was announced on Monday, Dec. 12, at the Military Museum in Saratoga Springs. It is meant to provide National Guard members with an inexpensive vacation package to give back for their service. Fourteen hotels throughout the county have provided accommodations free of charge or at reduced rates.
The chamber is now seeking donations of gift cards and certificates from local restaurants and tourist attractions to be put into gift baskets. Each soldier will then be presented with a basket when they check in to their chosen hotel. The hope is that the majority of the trip will be free for those participating.
“In 2002, the community generously took care of the vast majority of expenses that the participating first responders may have faced when visiting here,” said Romeo. “We hope to give these soldiers who have given so much a similar experience.”
More than 200 soldiers participated in the first event. Because of its success and the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, the Chamber decided to hold the program again to thank the people involved.