A dream takes flight

What we need are critical lovers of America – patriots who express their faith in their country by working to improve it.” ~ Hubert Humphrey Jr., 38th Vice President of the United States

Five hundred dollars. The amount of money it would take for Jacob Kollman, only 10 years young, to be able to provide the funds for one Veteran to take the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight. The Honor Flight provides Veterans with the opportunity to visit their respective service memorials in Washington, D.C. The trip is free to Veterans and the program itself is non-profit, relying on donations and fundraising proceeds to run. The one-day round trip begins at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, Illinois. All expenses are covered, including the flight, ground transportation, meals/snacks and beverages.

As one can imagine, the trip is much more than an opportunity to visit a memorial. It is the gesture of honoring the sacrifice made by so many men and women in honor of our country. It is the carrying on of patriotism by not allowing their service to be forgotten. It is a healing hand extended to those who will carry the weight of wars fought for our very freedom.

From the age of three, Kollman had an innate appreciation for those who serve. Drawn to those in uniform, Kollman has shaken the hand and heard the stories of a countless number of heroes. After a trip to Chicago where Kollman met more service members, he told his mother, Cathy Kollman, he wanted to raise money for a cause. That cause would end up being the Honor Flight. His goal was to be able to make enough money to provide a trip for one Veteran.

Two dollars. This would be the price of one of the ‘rabbits’ that the Kollmans brainstormed making as a craft to sell to raise money. Made from washcloths, the entire family started out by making 50 ‘rabbits’ filled with plastic eggs and candy, just in time for Easter. Keeping with the theme, they also made planters with artificial flowers, priced at $10 each. While speaking with young Jacob Kollman, he giggled while reminiscing about the glue gun skills of his father, Jake Kollman. Many hours, love, and apparently burns, went into the family project. Cathy Kollman posted about the crafts and Jacob Kollman’s goal on her Facebook profile … and the orders began pouring in. Soon, Jacob Kollman’s fifth grade teacher at Winchester Elementary School, Susan Manker, began helping assist with orders. According to Kollman, Manker deserves the Golden Apple award, which is awarded to only 10 outstanding teachers a year; this speaks highly as to her contribution to his goal. The family also enlisted the help of Buck & Jo’s Too Cafe, who allowed Jacob Kollman to sell the crafts in the restaurant.

Over the course of three weeks, over 700 rabbits were ordered and delivered, all while balancing school, soccer and life in general. Jacob Kollman was hands-on the entire time, driven by his desire to honor the men and women whom he so highly regards. When asked what his inspiration was for raising the money, he explained how the trip honors memories for Veterans … in his own words, “They saved us.”

While speaking with Jacob, he told me the story of one man he met while raising money. The man lives locally, and survived not only a plane crash, but landing in enemy territory. “There was one day that was completely scribbled out. There were diagrams of where the plane landed. Some days he didn’t eat. They even fed him maggots. He wrote about everything, every day,” While speaking with Jacob, he told me the story of one man he met while raising money. The man lives locally, and survived not only a plane crash, but landing in enemy territory. said Jacob Kollman, recalling in detail the ordeal – in a way you expect of an adult, not a fifth-grader. His genuine understanding of the emotional toll of war and sacrifice made by the individuals he meets shines through when he speaks of his gratitude for them.

Two thousand eighteen dollars. That’s the amount Jacob Kollman and his family raised for the Honor Flight. The hard work of making over 700 and a countless number of flowers, will allow not one, but four area Veterans the incredibly-deserved trip to honor their service and fallen comrades. But more than that, a young man showed an entire community that no matter what age, all it takes is a dream and dedication to help others.

When wrapping up, Kollman spoke of his plans for the future. As the first 10 years of honoring and helping others has gone, it came as no surprise to hear he plans to become a police officer. His is a life of dedicated service, which is just beginning. In his own words, he shared as a final thought: “Be kind to others, and they will be kind back. Be thankful.”

If you would like to donate to the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight, you can contact them at landoflincolnhonorflight.org or send donations via mail to: Land of Lincoln Honor Flight, 57 Country Place, Springfield, IL 62703.

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