The Freebird Foundation, Inc. was a non-profit foundation established in honor of Ronnie VanZant, the original singer and songwriter for the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. Ronnie was killed on October 20, 1977, when Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane crashed in woods near McComb, Mississippi enroute to a show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines and Dean Kilpatrick were also killed in the accident.
Since being founded by Judy and Melody VanZant in 1992, the Foundation has funded the Ronnie VanZant Memorial Park, a 90 acre recreational park located in Clay County, Florida. The Park has been geared toward helping children become better athletes, musicians and young adults.
Recreational facilities have been added thru the years which receive a lot of use including: picnic pavillions, charcoal grills, restrooms with handicapped facilities, tennis and basketball courts, playground equipment, softball field, soccer field, a five acre stocked and landscaped fishing pond and most recently, VanZant Nature Trails. Future plans included adding a teen center complete with swimming pool, game rooms and a gymnasium, equestrian trails and camping areas.
1995 saw the debut of another of the Foundation's major goals -- establishing a series of scholarship programs to benefit deserving area youth. The first of these scholarships, a $2,000 award in honor of Allen Collins was awarded to Corey Hunt, a student at Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida. The Foundation has awarded ten additional scholarships in the names of Ronnie VanZant and Steve and Cassie Gaines.
The second annual Freebird Festival, an all day concert featuring national rock and country recording artists headlined by Lynyrd Skynyrd, was held on Saturday, October 8, 1994 in Jacksonville, Florida. December 1995 saw the release of Freebird... The Movie, the long-awaited vintage Skynyrd concert film featuring incredible footage from 1976 and 1977. The Freebird Foundation, Inc also hosted a series of events surrounding the premiere of the film at Atlanta's historic Fox Theatre. Funds raised during these events helped to fund the children's playground equipment now at the Ronnie VanZant Memorial Park.
The Foundation began holding annual Lynyrd Skynyrd Fan Fest Picnics at the Ronnie VanZant Memorial Park complete with live music beginning the weekend of October 20th, 1997, commemorating the 20th anniversary of Skynyrd's plane crash and continued to do so each year until October 2000.
The Freebird Foundation, Inc. offered two ways for Skynyrd's fans to directly help fund the Foundation and the Ronnie VanZant Memorial Park:
FREEBIRD FOUNDATION MEMBERSHIPFor a tax-deductible contribution of $20 or more, Members received:
A Freebird Foundation Cap or Ronnie VanZant Park Poster
Quarterly Newsletters From The Freebird Foundation, Inc.
BUY A BRICK PROGRAM
The Freebird Foundation, Inc. offered all the loyal fans and friends of Ronnie VanZant and the Lynyrd Skynyrd band a special opportunity
Through the Freebird Foundation, the annual Freebird Festivals and Picnics, the Ronnie VanZant Memorial Park and the countless fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd -- the legacy of Ronnie VanZant will live on forever!!!!!