Raising awareness and big bucks at the same time

In less than three years since forming, American Legion Riders Chapter 560 in Zimmerman, Minn., has been able to make a big impact on its community, with a focus on assisting other organizations that provide post-traumatic stress disorder treatment.

That help will reach an even higher level on June 3, when Chapter 560 will stage its annual Veterans Benefits Run and cap the day presenting $50,000 to three different veterans nonprofits and a veterans home.

“We’ve really kind of tried to find different organizations that are doing stuff to help the guys that need some help – whatever they need,” said Chapter 560 Director Steve Andersen. “A lot of it for PTSD. We just wanted to try to do something different. I feel like we’re doing some good things. We just wanted to be able to bring some awareness to what these organizations are doing to help these veterans.”

The four donations will go to:

  • Project Delta, which pairs and trains shelter and rescue dogs to become service dogs for veterans battling PTSD ($15,000 donation);

  • Patriot Assistance Dogs (PAD), a training program that prepares dogs to assist veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD, traumatic brain injury or a related psychiatric issue ($15,000);

  • Eagles Healing Nest, which provides housing, meals and recovery services to veterans dealing with PTSD ($15,000); and

  • The Minnesota Veterans Home in Silver Bay, Minn., to help purchase a new pontoon boat ($5,000).

The donations come a little more than a year after donating $10,000 to PAD. When Chapter 560 was chartered in December 2015, Andersen applied for and was granted a limited state gaming license that allows the chapter to conduct multiple bingo events a year at various venues. The post also conducts raffles, including one Coach purse event that drew more than 530 interested buyers and raised more than $23,000.

“Once we do our (June) donations, that will put our group, in less than two years of fundraising, donating over $100,000 to veterans and their causes,” Andersen said. “There’s nothing wrong with going out and doing steak fries (and) fish fries, but our post is limited because we don’t have a full kitchen. So we had to come up with some other creative ways to make some money. We want to be able to show what we’re doing as a Rider group.”