Following a late flurry of donations in the third annual American Legion 100 Miles for Hope challenge, California Legionnaire Chris Yates emerged as the top overall fundraiser.
Yates, a member of Alvin Myo Dunn Post 365 in Vista, Calif., explained his fundraising concept earlier in the campaign, saying he began with his “why.”
“I'm not doing anything other than, to be honest with you, sharing my journey,” he said at the time. “If I make a major milestone for me, which is to achieve 100 miles, I post it on social media. One of the things I've done differently this year is for every 100 miles that I run, with a goal of doing 1,000 between now and Labor Day, is I do 100 in memory of a veteran who has fallen.”
That approach motivated donors to support his journey and the challenge’s beneficiary. All registration fees and donations in the challenge went to The American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation (V&CF), which supports disabled veterans and military families.
For his efforts, Yates wins the top incentive, which is four tickets to any INDYCAR race of his choice during the 2023 season.
Yates edged out Mitchell Keil of American Legion Post 125 in North Adams, Mass., and Lisa Iskric, a member of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 420 in Steelton, Pa.
“The dedication of American Legion Family members to this initiative is inspiring,” said American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola. “In the first three installments, more than 11,000 participants have embraced fitness and wellness, improved their health, and supported our Veterans & Children Foundation.”
Since the first annual 100 Mile for Hope was launched in 2020, roughly three-quarters of a million dollars has been raised for the foundation. Those funds go to providing resources and education for accredited American Legion service officers who provide free assistance to any veteran with their VA benefits claims. Additionally, the V&CF provides grants to military families in financial distress through the Temporary Financial Assistance program.
For 2023, The American Legion is looking at expanding 100 Miles for Hope and retooling it to focus more on the fitness and wellness aspect, Troiola said.
“Each year we have fine-tuned the program, based on the changing needs of participants,” said Troiola, noting it started early in the pandemic as a way to stimulate physical activity among members. “For 2023, we have some fun challenges we’re considering and ways to improve upon some things.”
Among those proposed changes are a leaderboard that is sortable by activity, monthly challenges for participants and more.
During the 2022 challenge, American Legion departments were placed in the Department Breakout Challenge by size and encouraged to see which ones could generate the highest donation total. The winners of the department challenge are:
• Division 1: Pennsylvania
• Division 2: California, which raised the most overall donations.
• Division 3: Michigan
• Division 4: Massachusetts
• Division 5: New Hampshire
• Division 6: Alaska
Each winning department will receive a plaque for their achievement.
Among law enforcement agencies that competed in their own challenge, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department squeaked by the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office.
For Yates, he is grateful to his supporters but emphasizes the fitness and wellness aspect of the program.
"I'm blessed to have wonderful friends who supported the mission by donating close to $6,000 this year for the V&CF," he said. "The whole health aspect of 100 Miles For Hope is as vital as the money raised. The importance of exercise and physical activity is tragically undervalued in our communities. Regular exercise has tremendous benefits for healthier lifestyles, improves attitudes, and reduces anxiety and disease risk. 100 Miles For Hope increases our ability to help those in need and promotes behaviors that allow us to live healthier and perhaps longer years more comfortably."