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100-Year-Old World War II Vet Walks 100 Miles, Raising $100K For COVID Relief

A World War II vet in Minnesota has achieved something incredible — at 100 years old, he walked 100 miles to raise over $100,000 for charity.

Mickey Nelson began his journey at the end of May, with a goal of raising just $5,000 for the Salvation Army to help feed families struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. But his determination resonated, and people from all over chipped in to bring Mickey to over $100,000 in donations as he crossed that 100-mile mark last week.

“This was the direction God was leading me,” he told People when he was halfway through. “I have since learned that the requests for food assistance from the Salvation Army have risen over 900% during the COVID-19 pandemic, so this fundraiser came at just the right time.”

Mickey says he was inspired by a similar story over in the UK, where fellow WWII vet Captain Tom Moore walked around his garden 100 times and raised $40 million for the UK’s National Health Service.

“I saw how the British healthcare system benefited from Captain Moore’s walking fundraiser and wondered if I could do the same here in the USA,” Mickey said.

And the accomplished veteran didn’t have to cross the finish line alone. Prior to his final mile, WWII reenactors drove Mickey around his town of Clarks Grove in a WWII Jeep to celebrate all that he had done. 

Then, that group and a couple dozen more people joined him as he completed what he set out to do at the start of the summer.

But even in light of hitting such an incredible goal for someone his age, Mickey seems focused on the good all the donations that poured in will do for people in need — something that is personal to him.

“I grew up during the Great Depression and, living on the farm, we always had enough to eat,” he said. “But I remember how people who were struggling were lined up in bread lines. With coronavirus, I was seeing so many people laid off from their jobs that I thought there must be something I could do to help.”

“He’s a really special guy and we’re just blessed to have him in our lives,” said his daughter, Michelle Kelm.

And so are all the people who will get a little bit of help from the Salvation Army, all thanks to Mickey.

Rachel Kiley

Written by Rachel Kiley