FORTVILLE — Whenever Josh Ward would get a text from his friend — “I gotta go sit with this guy. Make sure my dogs get fed in the morning” — he knew what wasn’t being stated in the message.
He knew that, in that moment, there was a veteran who was struggling. He knew Charles “Chuck” Theobald IV knew it too, and that Theobald was going to offer a listening ear and caring presence to that person.
“Fellow veterans that were in need, he did whatever he could to help them,” Ward said. “When he passed, I felt a strong need to continue that.”
Blazer 88 Foundation hopes to offer that spirit of empathy and raise awareness for its work with a Thanksgiving dinner served at Fortville Church of the Nazarene.
Ward and Theobald were neighbors across the street from each other in Fortville when they met 15-17 years ago and became best friends, Ward said.
Theobald had served in the U.S. Marines from 1994-1998 and was a member of Fortville American Legion Post 391. He was a 45-year-old husband and father when he died in 2019 in a motorcycle crash.
Ward thought about how Theobald had been concerned for fellow veterans, particularly for their mental health. A few months later, Blazer 88 Foundation was born.
The name comes from Theobald’s call sign in the military. The organization seeks to honor his legacy by meeting specific needs for veterans, such as counseling or accessibility for veterans with disabilities. Several fundraisers through the year finance the work, which has included helping a veteran see a counselor, sponsoring children at a camp for those who’ve lost parents in wartime, or helping a veteran family have Christmas gifts for the children.
The Thanksgiving dinner, to be served from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 24, is available to veterans and non-veterans alike.
“We’re hoping anyone who’s in need … anyone who feels they don’t have a place to go on Thanksgiving … anyone who doesn’t have money to do a big Thanksgiving meal” will feel welcome and come, said Tiffany Ward, Josh’s wife. “The expectation is just for people to show up.”
She said the menu will be traditional. One person has offered to donate turkeys; another is donating green beans.
Josh Ward said the mission of the dinner is two-fold: offer a welcome to those who might otherwise be lonely, and spread the word about the work of helping veterans that Blazer 88 Foundation does.
Tiffany Ward said, having gone to Fortville Church of the Nazarene throughout her life, she knew of the life center and kitchen there that she thought would work as a venue for the meal. She found the church receptive.
“I know that Tiffany and Josh are passionate about supporting veterans,” the Rev. Phil Edwards, lead pastor of Fortville Church of the Nazarene, wrote in an email. “… This act of love by providing a Thanksgiving meal through the Blazer 88 Foundation is one way our church can help thank the veterans by opening up our church for this Thanksgiving meal. … We are excited to host this event.”
When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 24
Where: Fortville Church of the Nazarene, 701 S. Maple St., Fortville
Presented by: Blazer 88 Foundation
Information: [email protected], 317-518-3652