Like many St. Patrick’s Day Grand Marshal’s of the past, Tony and Lorraine Van Kampen were surprised and honored when chosen by the Shamrock Club to fill the position this year. “They do know we haven’t a stitch of Irish in us, right?” said Tony when he heard the news.
Each year the Shamrock Club selects their Grand Marshal(s) based on community dedication. The Van Kampen’s are a shoe-in. Besides co-owning and operating great McDonald’s franchises in Clintonville, New London and Waupaca, the Van Kampen’s are extremely civic minded.
Tony has served on the board at St. Joseph’s Residence since 2005 and on the Washington Center board of directors since 2007. He has a passion for flying, and participates in the Young Eagles program that pairs children between the ages of 8 – 17 who are interested in aviation with a pilot. The pilots volunteer their time, fuel and plane in order to give children an experience in flight.
Lorraine has served on the New London Family Medical Center Board of Directors since 2007 and chairs the Quality Council. She is proud to be part of the newly formed Customer Advocacy group for the NL campus. She is past president of the Chamber, a past board member and won Ambassador of the Year in 2011.
Both are members of the Chamber of Commerce. You can see them volunteering their time at events throughout the year.
A new passion that has them bouncing in their seats as they talk is the Old Glory Honor Flight. This plane trip, designed specifically for World War II veterans, takes them to Washington D.C. to see their memorial. A fundraiser called Celebrate Freedom has taken countless hours to help coordinate, but last week the event went off well and should help to defray costs for the April 7 flight.
“There is no cost to these Veterans,” said Tony. “That’s why the fundraising and support is so important. Tony and Lorraine have been crusading for the cause for the past year, going to area clubs and asking for support.
“If anyone knows anyone who has been in a war, they know how important recognition is,” said Lorraine. “That’s why we do this. We get our payoff by watching their faces.”
The VanKampen’s are also proud to have two children and four grandchildren. A priority is set on family, time, too. “We watch the St. Pat’s parade together nearly every year. Actually,” Tony explained, “this year we were supposed to be at a McDonald’s convention in Las Vegas, but got a special pardon due to our Grand Marshal status.”
“We were thrilled,” said Lorraine. “This is a mandatory convention and they let us off the hook so we can be here and be part of this great community event.”
The VanKampen’s know first hand that this New London event is a national newsmaker. Four years ago while relaxing in Hawaii, Tony picked up daily newspaper to see that “New Dublin” was the place to be for St. Patrick’s Day.
St. Patrick’s Day is special in the heart of an Italian boy too. Tony’s mother was born on March 17. “She always cooked us corned beef and cabbage on her birthday, or we’d go to the American Legion and have it. She became very Irish that day,” he says with a smile full of memories.
The New London McDonald’s store also had a ground-breaking on March 17, 1980.
“This parade truly is a huge event and brings business to New London we wouldn’t have otherwise. That is so crucial to our businesses here,” he said. Lorraine chimed in, “We request extra Shamrock Shake ingredients each year or we’d surely run out. It’s great for business to have the Shamrock Club here.”