MEDIA RESOURCES for Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle

Woman in safety vest standing behind a newspaper photographer
Helen Karakoudas Redfern, media contact for Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle, socially distant from – but still helpful to – Scott Yates, a photojournalist who in June 2020 was covering the project for the Rockford Register Star newspaper. Photo by HOLLI CONNELL/Engine Studio.


Media contact

Helen Karakoudas Redfern

Co-chair, Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle

Cell: (708) 420-0800


Flowers in the project cover more than 6,500 square feet and stretch across almost 1.7 miles, including:

  • The circular bed around the flag
  • Fronts, backs of four monument walls
  • Four end caps
  • Medians on North Main Street (north and south of roundabout)
  • A long bed in front of Greenwood Cemetery (on Auburn Street)
  • All the raised beds in front of the businesses on North Main Street
  • Beds around the city parking lot at the SE quadrant of the roundabout
  • 25 sidewalk plots on the Auburn Street corridor from the Rock River, individually adopted

Most of the money we raise – ALL from private donations – goes toward flowers. But there are some non-floral expenses too.

Linked here is our cost projection for the 2022 beautification of Veterans Memorial Circle.

A VA report titled National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide 2018–2028

See Page 38: “Community Engagement”



A Brown University report on the Cost of War Project

Key takeaway: For every service member who died in combat in the 20 years post 9/11, more than four times as many active-duty personnel and veterans have died by suicide.

On April 26, 2022, one of our flower vendors, Village Green nursery, donated 32 emerald-green arborvitae trees. Saving for these trees—eight to go behind each monument wall— was a far-off milestone in our fundraising.

Village Green's donation opens up the opportunity for stringing lights during the holidays and on other special occasions year-round.

This press release covers the impact of the donation and includes a comment from Jessica Salisbury, CEO of Village Green.

“The results have made us all think differently about what we can do and achieve in our neighborhoods.”


Historic preservationist, architect, and chair of Transform Rockford's Great Neighborhoods initiative


Gary Anderson's email:

“ ... this is twofold. I would say this is the biggest volunteer driven beautification project. It’s definitely the biggest community project that we permit. What you guys do, in the short amount of time on that day is nothing short of amazing.”


Permits and Special Events Manager, City of Rockford, in reply to a 4/13/2022 email with the subject line “Fact Check”


Martin Bloom's email:

We have two support vehicles.

Rosie (she/her/hers)

Rosie is a custom-built 275-gallon mobile watering system that project founder Rick Westlake designed in 2019 and has consistently been improving. We named Rosie after Rosie the Riveter, the World War II icon of can-do spirit.

We use Rosie to water the parts of the beautified areas that aren't irrigated – which add up to about two-thirds of what we plant. The areas with no irrigation include the fronts and back of the monument walls, the 25 sidewalk plots on the Auburn Street corridor from the Rock River, the beds in front of the North End Commons businesses on the 1400 block of North Main Street, the long bed on Auburn Street in front of Greenwood Cemetery, and the beds at the entrance to the city parking lot at the southeast quadrant of the Main/Auburn roundabout.

A team at NITE Equipment in Pecatonica, Illinois helped assemble Rosie in 2019. Rick Westlake's persistent upgrade to Rosie proved most valuable during the drought of 2021, when the USDA designated Winnebago County a Primary Natural Disaster Area. Rosie and her efficiencies saved the day for thousands of flowers. In addition to watering the unirrigated areas, we relied on Rosie to give a good soaking to the irrigated areas too. Before the challenging summer of 2021 was over, she was officially granted her wings: a VIN and a license plate.

Audie (he/him/his)

Just before Spruce Up Day 2022, Audie joined our crew.

Audie is a brand-new single-axle trailer donated to Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle by the PJ Trailers division of American Trailer Works. We named Audie after Audie Murphy, best known as the most decorated service member of World War II.

We chose this name because Audie Murphy came back from war at age 19 and was open about, and active because of, his lifelong struggles with PTSD, which he called “combat fatigue.” Despite his many and serious problems – which included drug addiction, bankruptcy, and even an attempted murder charge – Audie Murphy stepped up to work with returning Korean and Vietnam War veterans so they could get help in seeking appropriate treatment.

Audie gives us a permanent solution to one of our biggest logistical challenges: moving flowers, bushes, trees, dirt, mulch, supplies, traffic cones, and even weeds. Because we don’t have a physical presence at the roundabout to accept deliveries, we pick up the entire range of what our volunteers plant – and everything we need for planting and maintenance – from multiple locations. Rick Westlake is customizing Audie for our frequent uses. He will make our transports faster and efficient.

The following excerpt is from an August 9, 2019 broadcast on WNIJ 89.5 FM, Northern Public Radio.

For a profile of noted Rockford arts teacher Ann Rundall, reporter Connie Kuntz followed Ann Rundall to her most inspiring spots around the city.


"After we left the playground, Ann and I drove to another place that holds meaning for her; the roundabout at North Main and Auburn Streets in Rockford. It is officially known as Veterans Memorial Circle. The speed limit is 15 miles per hour, but many motorists notoriously go above that. Still, Ann was pleased to be there.


Ann said, "I'm looking at this roundabout and it is absolutely gorgeous. The neighborhood has come together and planted flowers on this corner. And it is just breathtaking. And for me, this says there is hope. When people come together, you can turn something that's notorious into a thing of beauty."


You can find the full feature, including a photo, here:

"State of the Artist: Here, Go Make Some Stuff"

From Spruce Up Day 2019:

Credit: M & M Photography



From the series of Spruce Up Days in 2020:

Credit: Engine Studio


No professional photographer was available during our planting days in 2021.