Justin Peterson is a 9-year-old with an apparent knack for fundraising.
The Chewelah boy has raised more than $3,689 since late last year to help the region’s Honor Flight program with its mission: sending World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their war memorial.
“I’m just really surprised because I didn’t think we’d get this much,” Peterson said. “At first my goal was only $600, but we well cleared that. Now I like $4,000.”
He has persuaded people to donate through public speaking engagements, a letter campaign, a loose-change drive and a taco feed.
Recently, his efforts got a mention on a local radio station, said Tony Lamanna, a Spokane police officer and regional Honor Flight director. That prompted a $1,200 pledge from an anonymous donor.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said the boy’s mom, Elizabeth Peterson. “We’ve been receiving a couple checks per day from area VFW posts.”
Justin Peterson’s inspiration came after he started interviewing World War II vets for a school project at Gess Elementary School. The fourth-grader has talked to seven or eight vets now, he said.
“One of them, he was a mine sweeper. He blew up mines so his fellow ships could come in,” he said. “That’s one of my favorite stories. I have so many.”
Peterson has raised more by himself than all of Greenacres Middle School in Spokane Valley ($1,400) or all of Willard Elementary School in Spokane ($2,200), Lamanna said.
“We are going to be taking five or six trips this year,” Lamanna said. In all, about 200 veterans will be able to see their memorial.
Justin’s fundraising effort will support six veterans, Lamanna said. “It’s phenomenal.”