COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine — Nov. 29, 2012 — Wreaths Across America (WAA), a nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester, in 1992, today announced that this year will mark the laying of the one-millionth remembrance wreath being donated to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans.
Wreaths Across America has reached a significant milestone this year and the organization credits the compassion and patriotic spirit of Americans for helping them achieve such an honorable goal.
For 14 years the wreath laying was a company project for the Worcester’s, completed with great pride and very little fanfare. The first delivery of wreaths to Arlington numbered just 5,000. In 2005, the iconic image of the wreaths in the snow at Arlington, taken by James Varheghyi, became an instant hit on the Internet and thousands of people contacted Worcester Wreath to see how they could get involved.
“Originally we wanted to honor our country’s veterans with a gesture we felt would be a small symbol of appreciation. We chose Arlington National Cemetery because it was in the nation’s capital and when visitors came to their loved ones gravesite at the holidays, they would see they were not forgotten. We never dreamed our small gesture would become a national tradition,” said Karen Worcester, executive director of WAA.
It was in 2007 that WAA was granted their 501(c)3 status and received enough donations to sponsor 34,000 wreaths. The steady growth over the following years may be impressive, but it is no surprise to founder Morrill Worcester, who says, “There is one thing we all agree on, and know is important, and that is we owe everything to the men and women of the military and the sacrifices made by them and their families. I think that’s why people join in and it grows.”
This year, the organization has more than 800 participating locations in all 50 states and nearly 30 locations overseas. They are currently on pace to lay between 355,000 and 401,000 wreaths across the country. In 2011, 90,000 wreaths were handed out and placed at Arlington by over 15,000 volunteers in little over an hour’s time. The total number of volunteers is expected to be even greater this year.
“We are overwhelmed with the support and patriotic gesture by people from all over the country,” said Karen. “This year, individuals and organizations have shown great support for local cemeteries, but our numbers for Arlington may come in lower than anticipated. It’s always heart-wrenching to place the last sponsored wreath and leave the next grave bare. I’m always afraid that a relative who visits their loved one’s grave after hearing about our program, and finds it without a wreath, will wonder why they were not honored,” she said.
Despite WAA’s continued growth nationwide, Karen’s fear could become a reality at Arlington National Cemetery. The organization says it still needs help to reach their goal of placing 140,000 wreaths there, where it all started. They will continue to accept donations for this year’s wreath laying at Arlington through December 13.
Follow Wreaths Across America on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/WAAHQ and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WreathsAcross.