Celebrating those who give of themselves.
by Judith Lawrenson
Photography by Bill Lawrenson
Dooya, Dooya, Dooya Dooya wanna dance? Well, if the answer is yes, here is a way you can not only dance to the music in classic Southern style, but contribute to a worthy cause while you are at it!
This story is about the Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Dance Club; it is truly a great one. It is also about our Charity Angel this month, Kathy Reynolds. Long time visitor and tourist, Kathy and her family retired to Hilton Head in 2013 after being “semi-locals” since 1982. Kathy says; “Living on Hilton Head is a rich and rewarding experience. There are so many choices here. We have fantastic beaches, great restaurants, nature exploration, and wonderful conservation and cultural options. But, there are many options to give back as well. We found Operation R and R to be the one we have chosen to support.” So, how do Shag Dancing and Operation R and R coincide? Read on for a heartwarming Island story!
PINK: How did you first get interested in Shag Dancing?
Kathy: My husband Gary and I are fortunate to live in a community with a diverse mix of families and retired couples. When we first moved in to our new home, our neighbor Karen Fusaro invited us to take shag dance lessons with the Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club. We enjoyed learning this elegant dance and meeting great people in the club. Shag dancing was invented in Myrtle Beach and is the official dance of South Carolina. This year has been named the "Year of Shag" by the South Carolina legislature. They called the Shag a “unique American dance form” and it really is.
PINK: What is your association with Operation R and R?
Kathy: Before moving permanently to Hilton Head, we worked with Hilton Head Vacation Rentals to share our lovely beach home with other vacationers to the Island. HHVR made us aware of Operation R and R by asking us to donate a week to the organization. Further investigation of the group convinced us to support this charity. It is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping military families of service men and women, Families of the Fallen, Gold Star Spouses, and parents to reconnect and reintegrate. Dealing with issues like reconnecting with their families can be a major problem for returning service people. This program, the one week free vacation complete with many perks, gives them the chance to resume their lives within a relaxed, stress free setting.
PINK: Share a bit, if you will, about how this all got started here on HHI.
Kathy: Judith, this is quite a story. The Hilton Head chapter of Operation R and R was founded by Dr. Grant Evans and operates with local service men and women in mind. We depend on local Real Estate Management companies and word of mouth referrals to make a one week space available at no cost to returning service people and their families. There are also other organizations and businesses that help out with this effort. For example families are given rental certificates for water fun equipment and restaurant meals—that sort of thing. We welcome anything a family on vacation may want or need. During the 2015 season (October 2014-May 2015) we brought over 80 families here for sponsored vacations. We have brought up to 240 families in past years, but there was a lower inventory of donated lodgings.
In January the Shag Club is hosting a weekend of dancing called The Island Winter Classic, which draws over 500 participants from all over the Southeast. They also hold a Silent Auction and net proceeds are presented to Operation R and R. Local businesses donate golf, fishing trips, dinners, art, jewelry and many other items. Operation R and R uses that money for grocery gift cards, welcome gift bags and supplies for the guest families.
PINK: You seem so very committed to this cause. Do you have personal experience with someone in the military?
Kathy:Yes, my family has a deep connection with the military. My father-in-law, Forrest Reynolds, Jr., was a part of the first wave of soldiers who landed on the beaches at Normandy during World War II. Forrest survived that harrowing launch and served for more than a year in the European theater, including the Battle of the Bulge. He was a career soldier and retired after 25 years in the US Army. My husband Gary also served in the United States Air Force during Vietnam.
Kathy is so proud of what she does for Operation R and R. There is not only financial support, but support in spreading the word about the work that this group does. What a wonderful cause and what a true Charity Angel.
After our interview, I asked Kathy how interested people could be of help to the families of those who have served. Here is her answer:
• Attend the Island Winter Classic January 7 at the Sonesta Resort
• Donate an item that can be included in the Silent Auction
• Go to the web site at www.hhishag.com for dates of free lessons or dance parties.
• Donate your vacation home, condo, or timeshare or hotel room nights directly to the group.
• Volunteer to host a military family who are visiting the Island.
Their mission statement:
“Operation R and R is a National, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping military families of service men and women and Families of the Fallen, Gold Star Spouses, and parents to reconnect, reintegrate, deal with the problems of reintegration and in easing post deployment stress.”