It’s a simple concept, really.
“Veterans deserve to be recognized for what they have done for our country. They deserve to be thanked. We think taking them out to dinner is a good way to offer that thanks,” said Tobin Kelly, organizer of Take a Vet to Dinner, being held Sunday October, 26 at 5:00PM in Tutor Hall on Bowesville Road in Ottawa. This is the seventh year Take a Vet to Dinner has taken place.
“The idea behind the dinner is to encourage civilians who haven’t served to invite a vet to our dinner. We don’t hold to a specific definition of who is, or is not a vet. We consider anyone who is serving, or who has served in the Canadian Armed Forces to be a vet.”
Civilian hosts invite vets to dinner, then pay for their tickets. The evening is focused entirely on the vets. The dinner itself is very loosely based on the traditional mess dinner. It includes several courses, served to the table. Vets and their hosts sit together. “We are piped in to the room and there are a few speeches and many toasts. There is always a guest speaker. In some cases we have the same vets coming year after year. It’s great to see them again and again, to catch up with them, and see how their year went. Vets bring their spouses too. Spouses definitely deserve to be appreciated as well,” said Tobin. The event continues to maintain a grassroots flavour.
“We could invite high profile guests, but then the focus would be on them and not on the actual vets. We want our hosts to talk to the vets and interact with them. This is about saying thanks for serving our country, for accepting deployments and postings and living the unique military lifestyle. Our dinner isn’t held at a military mess. We hold it at a civilian location. We do this to make it special. It might be different for civilians to go to a mess, but not the vets. We want it to be about them.”
There are prizes drawn for as well.
“We receive community support too. We give away paintings and books. The prizes are just part of the excitement of the evening. It’s a fun time of conversation and good will. Not to mention good food. In Ottawa the master of ceremonies is the popular Carol Anne Meehan, a CTV news anchor. She does a great job. We also receive a lot of support from the local Legion,” said Tobin, a civilian school teacher with no affiliation to the military.
The event is not a fundraiser.
“We work on a cost recovery basis. The hosts purchase tickets in advance, and we use that money to cover the cost of the evening. If a vet would like to come to the dinner we try to find a host who will take them, and vice versa. In a way we offer a matching service too.”
Take a Vet to Dinner began ten years ago in Orillia, Ontario. “I would encourage people to start this tradition in their own home towns. I’d love to tell them how to get it started. My parent’s started the dinner in Orillia. My wife grew tired of listening me talk about it and encouraged me to just start it in Ottawa. So I did. Now, we host vets of all ages. When a 94 year old vet is leaving the dinner and stops to ask you what you plan to offer next year. You know you’re doing something right.”
Please call 613-239-4035 for tickets. Please visit www.veteransdinner.ca for more details, to become a civilian host, or to be matched with a host.