Billings Senior High School students' Big Sky Honor Flight fundraising efforts have paid off to help World War II veterans from Montana fly to Washington D.C. to see their war memorials.
On Saturday, students held a special ceremony at Senior High after the boys basketball game against Bozeman, where they presented a check for $10,080 to contribute toward the fourth flight.
"They exceeded their goal with additional money still pouring in," said social studies teacher Duane Van Atta, who first brought the fundraiser idea up at the school. "It was a pretty lofty goal, so presenting the check was a real proud moment for the student body."
The Big Sky Honor Flight, a program that sends aging Montana military veterans to Washington D.C. to see their war memorials at no cost to them or their families, is scheduled for takeoff in April from Billings Logan International Airport in April.
The Montana program is part of a nationwide network that started in 2005. Big Sky Honor Flight has already taken nearly 200 Montana veterans to Washington and has a waiting list of 340 veterans waiting to go.
The third trip, scheduled for spring 2013, is fully funded. Each flight costs about $155,000.
With the money raised by Senior students, the fourth flight is about one-third funded, said Bill Kennedy, vice president of the Big Sky Honor Flight committee. "The amount raised is tremendous."
The committee continues to raise money for trips in May and June. Each trip can accommodate up to 90 veterans. Kennedy said they will work as long as it takes to raise enough money to send every WWII veteran to Washington that wants to visit the memorials.
Kennedy said people who make a donation by the new year are eligible for a tax break with the Montana Endowment Tax Credit. The tax credit allows donors to pay less in Montana state income taxes when they give a qualifying planned gift to a qualified Montana charitable endowment.
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