Freedom Honor Flight collecting donations to further serve area veterans

Freedom Honor Flight will be flying under new leadership as it kicks off its next fundraising effort. Since the La Crosse-based Freedom Honor Flight began its work in 2008, they’ve taken 21 flights to D.C. While they’ve served many veterans during that time, they hope fundraising efforts will help continue this legacy.

The organization previously gave priority to World War II and Korean War veterans but has now allowed service members from other conflicts to join the waiting list.

“Over 500 Vietnam veterans are already on their list,” said Dave Larsen, the new president for Freedom Honor Flight.

They have enough money for the next flight but want to raise more money for years to come.

“We keep adding to our funds so we can keep going indefinitely, hopefully,” Larsen said.

They take two flights out of La Crosse airport during the year. Each cost more than $100,000 for the day-long event. Festival Foods is collecting donations in order to keep the program going.

“It’s great to see the Coulee Region get behind the veterans and the whole program,” said Mark Przywojski, store director for the Holmen Festival Foods location.

Shoppers can add a $1 or $5 donation to the end of their total bill to give these veterans an experience of a lifetime. The in-store donations will be collected through July 8.

“You have to experience it yourself to try to describe the emotions of the day,” Przywojski said. While not a veteran, he’s been on two flights.

As the new president, Dave Larsen wants to see the organization get through the current wait list, and open up the experience to veterans from all conflicts.

“We’ll keep on going, as long as we have that good community support,” Larsen said.

Not only can people put money towards the cause at the counter, the store will also be collecting donations at its participating “brat barns” this weekend.

“It’ll be some of the best money you’ll ever spend,” Przywojski said.

Freedom Honor Flight officials will start making calling in early July to tell people that they’ve been selected. If they are able to make the flight, they’ll take off on Sept. 15.