Car show raises funds for Darkhorse Lodge

Proceeds from this year’s show benefit Darkhorse Lodge, a non-profit organization that gives back to veterans.
Published: Jul. 10, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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BYRON, Ill. (WIFR) - An annual Car Show returned to Byron, this time to raise money for a good cause close to home.

209 cars filled the United Church in Byron Saturday for the 30th annual Hib Reber Memorial Car Show to raise funds for Darkhorse Lodge, a non-profit organization based in Tennessee that focuses on creating a relaxing retreat for veterans. Former Byron residents Gretchen and Kirk Catherwood created the organization after son Alec was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. They’ve been raising money since 2013.

“This is what it’s about is connecting with people and these people are connected by cars,” said Darkhorse Lodge Board Member Jerry Oleson. “They were dreaming of these kinds of cars when they were in combat and now they are back home showing them off, so I think it’s cool how that connects to one another.”

Proceeds from the event will help build six cabins, five for veterans to stay in and one for the lodge’s employees. The five cabins for veterans will have fives rooms and each of the rooms will be named after one of 25 men who were killed as part of the 3/5 Darkhouse Unit in the Marines, including Alec.

The retreat will be free of charge to veterans, and they only have to worry about traveling to and from the site in Tennessee. The five-day retreat includes activities such as boating and fishing on Kentucky Lake. Oleson said he’s confident that the cabin will be ready to go by this time next year.

“They’re gonna meet guys that have walked similar boots and have done things that maybe they haven’t done but kind of. and I just get that we get to let that all air out,” said Oleson.

Leaders said there’s also talk about having professional therapy, not so much as to cope with PTSD, but to provide veterans with a safe environment by talking to someone neutral to air things out.

Hib Reber Memorial Car Show Co-Chair Darrell Reber has known Oleson for a long time and his involvement with the local veteran community, so he invited him to this year’s event to raise funds for the organization. The car show was started by Darrell’s dad Hibbert (Hib) 31 years ago and they didn’t have a show last year due to the pandemic. Hib was active with the event until he died in 1996.

“This is great. I have a car myself and everybody has just been cooped up and they are itching to get out and this is a great day and everybody’s coming out full force,” said Reber.

The show itself started in a bank parking lot with 10 cars and interest went up so much they moved to the church, where they have been for the last 10-15 years. This year’s record of 209 cars broke the previous record of 194 set in 2019.

“A lot of veterans are into cars and if they are not, everybody just wants to help out veterans,” said Reber.

The retreat will take place in Tennessee since it’s where the cabins are being built. Organization leaders hope to expand the retreat to other areas nationwide so veterans who live in a certain part of the country wouldn’t have to travel as far.

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