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Shell Factory to present veterans event

September 12, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Update: The Shell Factory's Nam Jam, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 16, has been postponed to Oct. 22 due to Hurricane Irma.

Original post:

The Shell Factory has planned its inaugural veterans-oriented Nam Jam from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, featuring live music, food, specials for veterans and a tribute.*

The attraction does a lot of community outreach, such as the field trips they provide to area students for the nature park, and has always wanted to do something for veterans, just not on Veterans Day when there's so much going on, Rick Tupper, marketing director and CFO of the Shell Factory, said.

"It's dedicated to local veterans. We are saluting Vietnam veterans, but also honoring all veterans," Tupper said. "The Nam Jam name came from a similar event they hold in Tuscon, Ariz., which gathers a lot of people. They gave us the OK to use the name and logo."

Ralph Santillo, founder of the Invest in America's Veterans Foundation, said his organization often combines its efforts with the Shell Factory to do wonderful things.

"When they started talking about the Nam Jam, they talked to us and we wanted to be a part of it because of all the Vietnam vets we have," said Santillo, whose group has a museum display in the Shell Factory.

The free event includes music with Chuck Peterson from noon till 3 p.m., as well as a barbecue cookout, with veterans receiving a free hot dog and chips.

At 3 p.m. a special tribute to veterans will be held, featuring a color guard ceremony put on by the Lee County Sheriff's Office Color Guard, an MIA (Missing in Action) ceremony done by one of the local veterans organizations, and they will honor a pair of World War II veterans.

Veterans will receive free admission to the nature park, a free round of mini golf, tickets for two draft beers or one well drink, 20 percent off any purchase in the retail store, a $3 discount on the Italian buffet and a free picture with a zip line purchase.

Vietnam veterans will also receive a 50-year commemorative veterans package, handed out by the Invest in America's Veterans Foundation. The package will include a proclamation from the president and a commemorative medal, among other things.

Santillo said he's been going around the country, handing out these medals, with many Vietnam veterans not even realizing they were entitled to them, as it's sponsored by the government.

"I keep a few medals in my pocket. When I see one at the airport, I make sure I ask if he's got one, and if he hasn't I give it to him," Santillo said. "One guy at the airport didn't know about them, and when I gave it to him, he started tearing up. We want them to know we haven't forgotten about them."

There will also be a 50/50 raffle, with the proceeds going to the foundation.

The Shell Factory & Nature Park is at 2787 Tamiami Trail.

For more information, call 995-2141 or go to

* Editor's note: This story published before Hurricane Irma. The event will be held, conditions permitting post-storm. An update will be provided online at .



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