SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Midwest Honor Flight is preparing to send more veterans to Washington, D.C. soon, and a teenager has raised over $30,000 for the organization over the past year.
Elsie Van Beek, sister to the organization’s president and CEO Aaron Van Beek, has been raising money since June 2021. It all started with a conversation between the siblings.
“I told him that I wanted to go on a flight and he was like, ‘alright, well if you raise $50,000 then you can go on a flight and then you can sponsor it.’ And I was like, ‘alright, game on,'” Elsie said.
Chris Van Beek, Elsie’s mom, says her daughter has served as the “patriotic princess” for Midwest Honor Flight since the organization’s start in 2017.
“Her role has always been to hand out the dog tags and welcome veterans home off the Honor Flight, and she’s welcomed home over 900 veterans and she’s wanted to take it a step further,” Chris said.
“Elsie Honors” is the name of her campaign. She has raised money by hosting bake sales, selling wreaths for Wreaths Across America and seeking donations through a website.
Her mom, who volunteers for the organization, says Midwest Honor Flight has a policy that you have to be at least 16 years old to go on a flight as a guardian. However, if the 14-year-old Elsie raises enough money to sponsor an entire flight, she’ll be able to go.
“My goal is just to do it before I’m 16 for when I become a guardian, so hopefully before that,” Elsie said.
“I asked her though, I said, ‘what happens if you raise that $50,000 too early?’ And her response was…” Chris said.
“I’m just going to keep on going. I’m going to raise it to $65,000 and then if I do end up getting even further than that, and then $75,000,” Elsie said.
“There’s been so many people supportive of her and her efforts. We simply could not do it without the community, and we’re super proud of her and the work she has done so far. I expect great things and I think she’ll make it,” Chris said.
Midwest Honor Flight has three flights planned for the near future.