For his 100th birthday, a WWII veteran is walking 100 miles to raise money for coronavirus relief

Veteran Walks 100 Miles Birthday
Mickey Nelson, a World War II veteran, said the soup lines during the Great Depression stood out to him.
Credit: Courtesy Mickey Nelson

(CNN) — A World War II veteran from Minnesota is celebrating his 100th birthday with an act of kindness that will help feed thousands of people in his community.

Mickey Nelson, 99, is walking 100 miles through his small city of Clarks Grove in an initiative he has named “Walking to 100.”

Nelson, who turns 100 on June 27, said he was inspired to walk to raise money for coronavirus relief after reading the story on war veteran Tom Moore who raised more than $37.4 million by walking 100 laps around his garden.

Instead of walking laps, Nelson is walking miles to mark his 100th birthday. Since beginning his walk in May, Nelson has raised over $42,000 — all which will go to The Salvation Army’s feeding and emergency programs.

“During the years of the depression, they had soup lines and other ways for people to get food and that stood out to me because I’ve been lucky to always have food on the table,” Nelson told CNN.

“When everything happened, that is what I thought of: there are people going hungry and I can do something about it.”

More than 700,000 Minnesotans and North Dakotans — about 20% of the workforce — have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic, according to The Salvation Army. About 40% of those who have recently become unemployed are now looking at food banks for the first time to find a way to feed their families.

“The amount of people we are seeing in need across the country is off the charts,” The Salvation Army executive development director Brian Molohon told CNN.

“We’ve seen a 900% increase in demand from people with food insecurity issues in many of our locations. So when I look at the money he’s raising, oh man, oh man. It’s exciting to think about the joy and hope he will bring to thousands of people.”

Nelson, a Clarks Grove resident his entire life, is also having a struggle of his own. He is isolating away from his wife, who is quarantined alone at a nursing home he is not allowed to visit.

For now, the veteran hopes to help feed as many people as possible while reminding the world that we are all in this together.

“I believe all of America, Democrat and Republican, should be united in helping the less fortunate among us,” Nelson said. “We are the United States of America and that is what my generation fought for.”

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