INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Vero Beach resident and national TV personality John Walsh spoke before a full room at the Oak Harbor community, asking them to “saddle up” to help The Salvation Army of Indian River County.
The 160-strong crowd gave the America’s Most Wanted host a standing ovation as he took to the elevated stage, prompting him to quickly tell them to take a seat.
“I really believe they do God’s work,” Walsh said of those who work for, volunteer with, and donate to The Salvation Army.
The organization, Walsh said, does more than help the “charity or disaster of the moment” – they help people who are up against the wall, those who make others in the community uncomfortable, those who society tries to ignore.
“They are the ones who saddle up,” Walsh said, later adding, “They’re in the trenches 365 days a year.”
The TV host asked those sitting in the audience to dig deep to help The Salvation Army of Indian River raise the funds it needs to support the various programs it offers.
“You do make a difference,” Walsh said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to come home and thank you.”
Before the annual benefit dinner, The Salvation Army had already raised $45,000 in donations and pledges.
The Salvation Army Director of Development John Corapi said the group hoped to match that amount to ensure the organization could hold its summer and after school programs.
“We run short,” he said of funding come summertime.
He said that the additional funding would help keep The Salvation Army from having to dip into the monies collected during the annual Red Kettle campaign.
“That only goes so far,” he said of the kettle dollars.
The amount raised during the dinner was not immediately known.
The Salvation Army Capt. Tim Delaney told the assembled group that “Doing the Most Good” is more than a slogan for the organization.
“It’s a strategy for us,” he said, explaining that everything the Christian charity group does is to improve the lives of others.
“Throughout the year, you help us,” he said, through volunteering and donating. “We commend you for that.”
Corapi expressed gratitude for Walsh taking the time to speak during The Salvation Army benefit dinner at no charge.
“He does it from his heart,” Corapi said.
Fellow Salvation Army member Billy Collins shared similar feelings toward Walsh.
“He’s one of our best friends,” Collins said, calling Walsh a “very humble servant.”
“Our programs are much like his,” he said, referring to the work Walsh has done to protect children and those most vulnerable in the community.
Two projects Walsh has been working on include getting law enforcement to collect DNA from suspects arrested on serious felony charges, which Florida has in place, along with getting the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act adequately funded. The act would create a national sex offender registration database.
But just like The Salvation Army asking the community to help with financial support, Walsh has had to do the same with Congress and the federal government.
“It’s always the money,” he said.
Anyone interested in helping The Salvation Army match the $45,000 already raised can contact the organization by calling (772) 978-0265 or visit www.uss.salvationarmy.org.