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A donation of love

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  • A donation of love

    May 31, 2009 - 5:16PM

    It's been nearly 42 years since the helicopter carrying Cpl. George S. Bondarewicz went down at New River Air Station, and the woman who was his fiancée has a plan to ensure that his death was not in vain.

    Marge Holden, 62, was 20 when her childhood sweetheart died June 23, 1967. Two CH-53A Sea Stallion helicopters loaded with 31 Marines and two Naval aviators were coming in for a combat assault landing on Camp Geiger before going out into the field for a week. They collided with a Huey UH-1E.

    Despite later marrying and having children, the memory of Bondarewicz remains with Holden. But that's only part of why the Atlanta resident will be hosting a basket fundraiser in Buffalo, N.Y., for Miracle Meadows' Injured Veteran Program.

    "That's near where George died and a big part of me," she said. "I got married, I have children, I have a grandson now, but I didn't lose that connection because we were childhood sweethearts. He was my sweetheart, it was a relationship so close he was like a member of my family."

    Holden was introduced to Miracle Meadows in 2007 when survivors and families of the crash victims reunited at the memorial, she said.

    Miracle Meadows, which is located in Onslow County, operates a therapeutic riding center with horseback riding and other horse-related activities for people with physical, mental or emotional disabilities, said Executive Director Joe Cappar. The program is open for wounded warriors, children and adults.

    Over the last year and a half, Miracle Meadows has developed riding plans for more than 30 wounded warriors, Cappar said. They meet Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m.

    Despite living in Georgia and keeping track of many programs, Holden said Miracle Meadows remains close to her heart.

    "I believe this whole fundraiser and everything ... that's all a higher power. We do things because we get inspiration from other people ... Maybe that's why I'm connected to Jacksonville the way I am. Maybe that's why I came across (Miracle Meadows)," she said.

    On June 19, Holden and others who knew Bondarewicz will raffle off baskets of goodies and door prizes in Buffalo.

    While the proceeds will go to Miracle Meadows to expand the program, Holden does not have a definite goal of how much to raise.

    "I have to just leave that to the higher power. ... What Joe and Linda need is about $200,000 for a good indoor arena that gives them the space they need for an office and a lounge for the families of people that come in there," she said.

    While she doesn't expect to raise anything near that amount, what they do raise, she said, is a start. She also entered the program's owners for a $250,000 raffle from Lowe's.

    The fundraiser is the only one currently on the books for Miracle Meadows.

    "We have a board of directors, and they are responsible for trying to raise funds locally. The extended family of one of our riders holds an annual event up in the Pennsylvania area," Cappar said. "We don't have anything scheduled right now as a major fundraiser in this area. We'd like to and we should have but we just don't have anything on the schedule right now."

    In addition to funds, Miracle Meadows accepts volunteers for horse leader and side walker positions.

    All the funds from the Buffalo fundraiser will be donated in Bondarewicz's name in memory of the 6-foot-3-inch tall, "larger than life," man who was Holden first love.

    "It's like his life still means something, even now," Holden said.

    To make a donation to Miracle Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center, send donations to 140 Catino Barns Lane, Jacksonville, NC 28546.

    Contact military reporter Amanda Hickey at 910-219-8461 or Visit the Lejeune Deployed blog at