Welcome Home the Heroes parade organizers challenge other cities

7:27 AM, Feb 3, 2012   |    comments
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By Ann Rubin

St. Louis (KSDK) - We did it here first. Now eight other cities may follow suit, holding parades to welcome home heroes from Iraq and the local organizers plan to use their expertise to help them.

They're calling it the City to City challenge and they'll formally announce it in the morning.

They say if St. Louis can line Market Street for a parade, other places can do it too.

They'll be releasing a music video online to help promote the challenge.

Staff Sgt. Brian Owens, formerly of the Air National Guard band Sidewinder, recorded the song.

"The name of the song is Keep Moving On and that's kind of what we want to see this whole movement do. Just keep moving on from city to city," said Sgt. Owens.

The hope that the enthusiasm from Saturday's Welcome Home the Heroes parade, will spread.

One hundred thousand people showed up and 20,000 participated. All of it was accomplished by a grassroots group with less than a month to plan.

The St. Louis parade made other cities take notice. Now Tucson, San Antonio, Denver, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Nashville and Greensboro are contemplating parades of their own.

And so members of the grassroots group, now called the Welcome Home Foundation are determined to pass on their knowledge.

"They were the first major city to do this. And now other cities are following. And when I talked to Chicago yesterday they said you know you guys did a good job down there but we're going to do better," said Maj. Rick Radford with the Foundation.

They may get some stiff competition from Tucson.

Retired businessman Alan Toppel just flew in to meet with the foundation and learn what he can from them.

"We have all the ingredients for it but now we have to put it together. And that's what I'm here for," said Toppel.

He says a Tucson parade will happen. In fact, he's already picked a date in March. He hopes it will be as successful as the one in St. Louis.

"You've set a standard here which is probably not going to be beaten. But it's going to be replicated all over everyplace. And we want to be the second one," said Toppel.

The Welcome Home Foundation was trying to raise $7 million in the seven days following the parade.

So far they've raised a few thousand, but they say they're in this for the long haul to help veterans.

For more information on how to get involved visit their website.

KSDK

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