For the past 13 years, hundreds of American Legion Riders have traversed thousands of miles across the country to raise money for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund. And during this year’s American Legion Legacy Run, they got an opportunity to meet one of the reasons why they do what they do.
Ally Niven, the daughter of a disabled veteran and a member of Auxiliary Unit 461 in Pembine, Wis., is receiving a $20,000 Legacy Scholarship this year. She will attend the Milwaukee School of Engineering to study nursing.
Niven was at Struck-Klandrud Post 136 in Onalaska, Wis., on Aug. 22 for an opportunity to meet with the men and women who rode to raise the money for scholarships such as hers.
“I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am for this scholarship,” Niven said. “It’s … kind of emotional (to meet the Legion Riders) because it’s just a really great opportunity and I’m so thankful to them. They’ve not only given us service … to help us have a free country. They’re giving back to students like me in order to help them later on in life.”
Niven said the scholarship “allows me to go without a financial burden my first year (of college). I won’t have any debt. It will allow me to really focus on my studies to become a nurse. It just really helps me to pursue my education to the fullest.”
The Legacy Fund raises scholarship money for the children of servicemembers killed on active duty on or after 9/11, as well as for the children of 50-percent or higher disabled veterans. Ally’s father Lee served in the U.S. Army from 1992-2010 while deploying to Iraq.
“I’m a disabled veteran, and I’m no longer able to work a regular job,” Lee said. “It means the world to me that I can, in some way, support my daughter going to college. I’ve talked to my daughter about how much sacrifice by others has gone into being able to give her this scholarship. It’s very special.”
Department of Alabama Adjutant Greg Akers said getting a chance to meet a Legacy Scholarship recipient like Ally brings “it home. Everybody says that everything we do with the Legion, if you impact the life of a veteran, it’s got you in the organization for forever. I feel like if you actually meet a Legacy Scholarship recipient, there ain’t nothing that’s going to stop you from raising the funds from here on out.”
Akers said the Legacy Fund strikes a chord with him. “The children have already lost one of the most important aspects of their life,” Akers said. “To give them a feeling of security for the future, it (goes) a long way.
“Even though my son’s 5 years old, right now I’m 80 percent service-connected. So he’s got something he can fall back on that he doesn’t even realize yet. So I do it for him, and I do it for a lot of my buddies’ kids that are going to use it and a few that already have. It’s important for us to continue to do that.”
Wisconsin’s National Executive Committeeman – and a past department commander and state American Legion Riders director – Ken Rynes said he rides to raise money for the Legacy Fund because he knows that’s what his friends would do for his children.
“It’s important to me because I’ve got four kids,” he said. “I always said that if something would have happened to me, I know that my brothers and sisters (in the military) would have taken care of them.
“They say there’s government money available, but it’s not 100 percent (of college expenses). We owe them the minimum of 100 percent. They paid the cost of their parents’ lives.”
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