BRANSON, Mo. It was a newspaper article about the victimization of some senior citizens that happened in 2008, hundreds of miles away from Branson and that most in Branson, not only had nothing to do with, but had no idea it had even happened. However, as is the case with many of life’s good works, it touched the hearts of people who cared and, as a result, a group of senior citizens, called the “Funseekers,” will travel those hundreds of miles to Branson and enjoy three days of fun they thought had been stolen from them forever.
At first blush, there’s nothing in the February 23, 2011 Connecticut Post article, entitled, “Travel agent headed to jail for defrauding seniors” for anyone in Branson to be concerned about, but as Larry Milton, co-owner of the Branson Tourism Center with his wife Lianne, read the article about this specific group, his heart was touched. He discovered that the seniors who had been victimized had paid over $40,000 to a man for a three night trip to Branson that they never got to take because he took their money but never fulfilled the trip. Although the thief was convicted and is awaiting sentencing, Milton just didn’t think it was right that the Funseekers never got the Branson trip for which they had paid.
On February 24, not a day after becoming aware of the situation, the Milton’s contacted the reporter to get more information on the group and began working with others in the Branson community to help put together the same itinerary that had originally been sold to the Funseekers group back in 2008. Milton said that he and others in the community wanted “the Funseekers to see firsthand in this day and age that Branson is different for all the right reasons.”
He continued by pointing out that it would also be an opportunity “to emphasize to other groups the importance of trusting an established tour provider.” He explained that whether it is someone who is a member of ABA, NTA, OMCA, BARA, or ASTA there are reputable companies that Branson’s future customers should be encouraged to “use to protect themselves and ultimately our community.”
With that simple start, and thanks to the hearts of many within the Branson tourism community, about 54 members of the “Funseekers,” will fly into St. Louis on September 12 to enjoy the same basic three day Branson itinerary they paid for in 2008 and thought they had lost. The response of those offering to help from within the Branson tourism community was overwhelming. As far as practicable, everything on their original itinerary, from airfare, to bus service, lodging, shows and most meals is being provided courtesy of the following which are listed in alphabetical order Andy Williams Moon River Grill, Branson Coach, Branson Tourism Center, the Brett Family Show, Jim Stafford Show, McFarlain’s Restaurant, Shoji Tabuchi Show, the Showboat Branson Belle Dinner Show, the Stone Castle Hotel, the Twelve Irish Tenors and the Yakov Smirnoff Show.
In explaining one of the major things that makes Branson the special place it is, Milton said, “It is and will forever be different because of the hearts of its people.” It is those hearts that are providing the Funseekers with the wonderful Branson experience that they thought was lost forever.