Midwest Honor Flight gets special help from a teen with a big heart
SIOUX CENTER, IOWA — The nonprofit organization Midwest Honor Flight takes veterans from South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials to their service.
For these World War II, Vietnam and Korean War veterans, their trip is entirely free.
They’re continuously fundraising for each mission, which costs upwards of $150,000 each, but they’ve got some pretty patriotic help.
14-year-old Elsie Van Beek runs “Elsie Honors,” which raises money for Midwest Honor Flight. This “Patriotic Princess” has a goal of raising $50,000, and she’s well-over halfway there.
She sells baked goods and works with Wreaths Across America, spending her weekends and summers at events around the Sioux Center area.
For Elsie, it started as a challenge. After watching big brother Aaron, Midwest Honor Flight’s President and CEO, travel with the veterans, she wanted in. Since she isn’t 16, Aaron made her a deal: raise $50,000 and get to fly before you’re 16. Elsie took it to heart, and has no intentions of stopping if she reaches her goal early.
All of the money goes towards Midwest Honor Flight’s missions, something Aaron says is heartwarming to see in the younger generation.
“Having a youth member that could easily go spend it on a video game or a Lego set or a bicycle or something, you know, something that they would want as a child, but instead turning it around because grandpa was a veteran, grandpa went on flight or grandpa didn’t get the chance go to, or grandma is going on a future Honor Flight and they wanted to raise money for it,” Aaron Van Beek said. “Just having the youth participate, I think, speaks to the parents as well and maybe even the school systems that they’ve instilled the values of what our freedoms mean. And [that] without those freedoms, without these veterans, we wouldn’t have what we have today.”
But it’s not just raising money, Elsie also greets each veteran after their flight, nearly 900 total since she started. Elsie says all the work is worth it when you see their emotion after each mission.
“I feel like it’s something that I should do because it’s the least we can do,” Elsie said. “They sacrificed their life for us, so I feel like I should be doing all that I can for them.”
Both Elsie and Aaron got involved with Honor Flight in part because they come from a very military-oriented family.
“So I have a sister that’s serving right now in the Army National Guard, and then a lot of my grandfathers and great-grandpas, like, served in wars,” Elsie said.
Midwest Honor Flight has three trips planned for this fall, and funding for those trips is desperately needed.
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