AUGUSTA — The May theft of money raised to cover the costs of an upcoming fundraiser to benefit a foundation for wounded soldiers won’t stop the music this weekend at the Augusta Elks Lodge.

The lodge’s first-ever Elks Summer Music Festival kicks off Friday and continues Saturday with proceeds going to the Travis Mills Foundation.

This is despite a May 25 theft in which burglars broke into the lodge and made off with more than $15,000, about $10,000 of which had been raised to pay for the cost of putting on the music festival.

Thanks to at least two local fundraising efforts which together brought in about $8,500 in donations, the music festival fundraiser was put back on track and will proceed this weekend as planned, organizers said.

The Red Barn Cares Foundation held a benefit at The Red Barn restaurant in Augusta and donated $6,500, and radio station Mix 107.9 started a Go Fund Me page which, so far, has raised $1,950, according to Augusta Elks’ Sara Bangs, marketing chairwoman for the music festival.

“I don’t know if we’d have gotten here, or it would be the event it is, without their help,” Bangs said of the fundraising help. “It’s amazing. We were kind of at a loss (at what to do after the burglary) because we had busted ass to get that $10,000.”

With enough money raised to cover the costs of putting on the festival, all the proceeds from the event will, as originally planned, go to the Travis Mills Foundation.

Mills is a Manchester resident and quadruple amputee wounded in 2012 by an improvised explosive device during his third tour of duty as an Army staff sergeant in Afghanistan. He started the Travis Mills Foundation to create a retreat for disabled and wounded veterans and their families. The foundation is currently working to raise $2.2 million to convert the former Elizabeth Arden estate in Mount Vernon and Rome into a retreat which will offer adaptive recreational activities.

Bangs said longtime Elks Lodge member Tim Rodrigue came up with the idea for the music festival with the proceeds of its first year going to Mills’ foundation.

“The Elks nationally raise millions of dollars every year for our veterans,” Rodrigue said. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Travis and can say his vision to help other veterans with similar injuries is not only inspirational but a testament to the person he is. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He’s focused and on a mission, and if the Augusta Elks can help him, I believe it’s the best cause we could have chosen.”

Bangs and Rodrigue said the Elks also hope the music festival will give local residents something fun to do — an outdoor summer music festival. They hope to do it every other year, having it on years when Le Club Calumet’s Festival de la Bastille event, which also runs every other year, isn’t taking place. Each year will likely benefit a different cause.

“We wanted to do something to give back to the community. There are not a lot of events going on in the summer in Augusta,” Bangs said. “We’ve got some great local bands, and it is supporting a great cause. It’ll be great family entertainment in a safe environment.”

Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday with opening ceremonies, including a presentation to Mills, beginning at 6 p.m.

Live music is planned Friday from 6:30 p.m. to midnight by central Maine-based bands Working Class and Emerald Sky.

Saturday, there will be free activities for children from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by music from noon to midnight by an Elvis impersonator, Yellow Brick Road Elton John tribute band, Little Twisted, Amber Jack, False Alarm and The Ge3ks.

The festival will be on the softball field outside the Augusta Elks Lodge off Civic Center Drive. No camping is allowed at the event. The event is scheduled to take place rain or shine. A tent will be on hand to provide some shade or cover from rain if needed.

Food, beer and wine will be available for purchase.

Tickets are $10 a day or $15 for the entire, two-day festival and will be available at the lodge or in advance at The Red Barn restaurant and College Carryout in Augusta.

Bangs said the lodge’s insurance company paid for damages done to the building in the burglary, but has not reimbursed the lodge for the stolen money.

Detective Sgt. Jason Cote said the burglary is still under investigation by Augusta police, but they have not made any arrests in the case.

Anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area the night of the burglary, which took place on Memorial Day, is asked to call Augusta Police. The department’s main number is 626-2370.

Cote said the burglary appears to have similarities with other burglaries at commercial buildings elsewhere in Maine.

Bangs said the Elks Lodge is hoping at least a few hundred people attend the event.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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