(Plain Press, January 2021) COVID-19 has made it difficult for the American Legion Auxiliary to hold their traditional fundraisers this year, so when Cindy Boehnlein learned about the “Hundred Miles for Hope” fundraising campaign proposed by American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford to raise funds for the Veteran and Children’s Foundation, she was eager to give it a try.
Cindy Boehnlein, First Vice President of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifton Unit 421 in Fairview Park, rode 1,100 miles in 12 weeks in the Cleveland Metroparks to raise funds for local veterans.
The American Legion National Campaign, as Boehnlein describes it, “ran from August 3rd to November 11th (Veteran’s Day). The object was to get members out and improve their health and at the same time raise funds for the Foundation. The fee to participate was $30.00 which covered the sports shirt and $15 of it to the Foundation.”
“When National Commander Bill Oxford started this campaign, I jumped at the chance to do this. I felt I could accomplish this easily as I used to cycle long distances and my age, 65, It shouldn’t be a factor in getting to 100 miles, as I had 100 days to do this,” said Boehnlein.
In addition to sending the $30.00 fee to join in the “Hundred Miles for Hope” challenge, Boehnlein decided to use this as an opportunity to raise funds for local veterans including the Transitional Residency Program at W. 94th and Lorain Avenue.
“I obtained sponsors and my husband tuned up my road bike. 100 miles turned into 200, till I reached 1,100 miles in 12 weeks of riding throughout the Cleveland Metroparks! Friends and family sponsored me for the American Legion Family charities for $1,100.00. These funds are being put to good use for the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA programs and our local veterans and military families,” she said.
Beohnlein says she initially told friends and family she would ride 500 miles and they sponsored her for small amounts per mile, like 25¢ a mile. Using her GPS on her fit bit to keep track of miles, Beohnlein says she rode in the Metroparks on days when it wasn’t raining – usually 12 to 32 miles a day. She said the first two weeks her legs were sore. As she kept riding, 100 miles turned into 200 and she was up to 1,100 miles by Veterans Day. Beohnlein said she only charged her sponsors for the agreed upon first 500 miles, and in all the effort raised $1,100 for local veterans.
Beohnlein says her father, her husband and her son all served in the military. Part of her motivation in raising money for local veterans comes from a personal story of how the Virginia American Legion came to the aid of her son’s daughter when she needed back surgery. Beohnlein says this made her more aware of the help the American Legion can provide to veterans and their families and raised in her a desire to contribute.
Speaking of the role of the American Legion Auxiliary, Beohnlein said she has been a member for 17 years. “We are a Veteran family. Our mission is in the spirit of “Service, not Self”, and we honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. We also advocate for veterans on Capital Hill, educate our citizens, mentor youth and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.”
Following the successful fundraising, Beohnlein joined with American Legion Auxiliary Clifton Unit 421 member Linda Zimmerer to deliver donations and gifts to Bob Darby, Director of the Veteran Administration’s Transitional Residency Program at W. 94th and Lorain Avenue. Darby says the program provides housing for 25 veterans who stay about nine months while they work on gaining employment, recovery, and saving toward getting housing of their own.
Zimmerer, age 81, who worked to coordinate the gift purchases for the veterans, also brought along Afghans made by Auxiliary members for the veterans. Zimmerer, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary for 24 years, says she served as treasurer of Clifton Unit 421 in Fairview Park for 23 years. She noted the importance of the funds raised by Boehnlein this year, saying the American Legion was unable to do their traditional sales of poppies for Memorial Day this year because of COVID-19 concerns. Boehnlein added that several pancake-breakfasts the American Legion Auxiliary hosted this year were also poorly attended, despite their efforts to create a safe environment for the events.