by Vicki Ikeogu
For more than 6,000 veterans in and around central Minnesota, the only way they can make it to and from various medical appointments is to rely on free transportation services provided by the organization known as Disabled American Veterans or DAV.
“The transportation services provided through the Central Minnesota DAV is the largest transportation program we have in the state, surpassing the (Twin Cities) Metro program,” said Trent Dilks, DAV’s legislative director and director of transportation. “We anticipate need of about $90,000 worth of transportation costs just in Central Minnesota.”
With a growing demand for transportation services for local veterans – up 43 percent between 2016 and 2017 in central Minnesota alone – Dilks said raising money for vehicle purchases and other expenses has taken on a new importance.
But come May 19, the local DAV chapter based out of the St. Cloud VA Health Care System, will see a slight boost in contributions, thanks in part to the 11th annual Old Glory Run.
“Since the run’s inception, the money raised has gone to support the vehicle fleet,” Dilks said. “And it has become one of our biggest fundraisers of the year.”
Dilks has been actively involved with the Old Glory Run for the past four years – including assisting with the run’s transition a few years ago from Cold Spring to St. Joseph.
During that time frame, the Central Minnesota DAV chapter has gone from having one vehicle in its fleet to seven with the hopes of adding another vehicle with funds raised this year. Dilks also hopes to be able to replace some of the older vehicles in the fleet with newer ones during the next few years.
“In the past year the (Central Minnesota) DAV has traveled about 262,000 miles,” Dilks said. “Thanks in part to the help of our volunteer drivers who logged about 13,000 volunteer hours last year.”
On average, about 1,000 people participate every year in the Old Glory Run – a 5K that has participants starting at the former St. Joseph city hall at 25 College Ave. N.
But the 5K is not just for the avid or competitive runner.
“We are really trying hard to get the word out that this is also available to walkers,” Dilks said. “We have some older veterans who participate who are in wheelchairs that we push through the race. Really, anybody can participate.”
In addition to the 5K, the Old Glory Run has a 1K fun run for kids 12 and under.
Dilks said several vendors will be on site after the race with kids’ activities like a bounce castle and face painting.
There is a cost to participate; participants can register for the event at theoldgloryrun.com.
“This is a great way to support our veterans,” Dilks said. “The money goes toward a good cause. The course isn’t intimidating. So, if you want to get involved, you really can’t pick a better event.”