After thousands of race fans left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, their trash was still left behind. But in the heap of garbage lay an opportunity.
“My main reason is to honor dad," explained volunteer Peter Connallon, Jr., who returned to the IMS the day after the Indy 500 to raise money and remember. "[My dad was] a World War II veteran. He never got to see the memorial, so I guess this is payback for him.”
For the volunteers picking up and cleaning up, IMS will pay Indy Honor Flight $2,700. That's enough money to fly six World War II vets to Washington D.C. for men and women like Wayne Saucerman, Warren Perney and Phyllis Funk - all members of the Greatest Generation and all veterans who had the opportunity to fly to the nations’ capitol, see the World War II memorial then come home to a cheering crowd, a hero's welcome six decades in the making.
It’s all part of the Indy Honor Flight experience and to get to that, volunteers said it's worth combing through and tossing bags full of trash.
“People think it's hot and nasty out here,” said Grant Thompson of Indy Honor Flight. “My answer to them is: Grandpa was on Iwo Jima. He told me it was pretty hot and nasty there too, so I'm willing to roll it up and get in there and do what we need to do to raise the money.”
On top of the money from the track, volunteers received donations from complete strangers - race fans on their way out.
“Four different people gave me $20 and I thought that was very generous of them," said Moore. "They'd had a good weekend, they were still happy about what was going on here, happy to know our cause and they wanted to contribute.”
On this Memorial Day, this contribution comes with sweat and dirt - and who knows what else - but for the volunteers, it's worth it.
“As I've grown older, I realize more and more the freedom that we often don't appreciate," said Moore.
For them, cleaning up the IMS was a chance to say 'thanks' to those who gave so much.
Cleanup all around the Speedway could take up to three days to complete. Some three dozen non-profits take part in the massive effort netting more than $75,000 for those organizations.
The next Honor Flight takes off September 6. At least 140 vets are scheduled to make the trip to Washington D.C.