The Waynedale American Legion Post #241 has held its Treasure Hunt game for a long time without seeing a winner like it did recently.
Every Thursday, the Post hosts the game, in which players pick random numbers on a game board, and pay $1 for a ticket to play. The game had gone 36 weeks without being won – until 3 weeks ago.
That’s when Natalie (who asked that her last name not be used) came in and played the event. She had only heard about the game “through the grapevine” and decided on a whim to give it a try. And she won the entire jackpot — $40,000!
“Her cube said ‘Jackpot,’” said Post Commander Bill Long. “And the person reading the numbers was so shocked, she just couldn’t even read it.”
The crowd of about 300 people at the Post that night stood and cheered the victory.
“She was just very appreciative,” Long said. “It was just a neat thing, because we got to give it away.”
And Post #241 was just as appreciative, because the woman donated a large portion of her winnings back to the Post. Most of that donation will go toward the Post’s Child and Welfare Fund, and to pay for the Honor Flight breakfast, in which the Post pays for the meal the morning that veterans and their chaperones fly to Washington, D.C. for the day for a tour of national monuments.
The remainder of her winnings, according to Long, will help improve the woman’s life.
“She’s a single mom, and she’s been saving money to help with a down payment for a house. It’s just a neat thing that we can help change someone’s life.”
Long said it’s one of the biggest jackpots he can recall around the area, though a Post in northern Indiana did recently give away $80,000, as well.
The Post, which has stood at 7605 Bluffton Road for 28 years, continues to host events throughout the month, from bingo on Mondays, to karaoke on Wednesdays, and live bands on Friday nights.
All events are open to the general public, as are food and drink. The only thing the public cannot do at the Post is buy and consume alcoholic beverages. You must be a member in order to do that.
Members – of course – are veterans of United States military and their families. The American Legion was started by the U.S. Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization “devoted to mutual helpfulness.” It’s the nation’s largest wartime veteran’s service organization, and is committed to mentoring youth and sponsoring wholesome programs in the communities where they are located.
One of Post #241’s activities is to help with Honor Flight, the program that flies local vets and their families to Washington, D.C. to tour the national monuments. The morning of the flight, the Post serves a free breakfast for the group – usually about 300 people – then uses a Post-sponsored bus to take the group to the airport. That night, when the group returns from D.C., the Post will pick them up at the airport and bring them back to the Post.
The Post also proudly serves at local military funerals. When a local veteran passes away, the Post will offer a group to go to the service to give full military rites. The 7-member team will give a speech, offer prayers, fold the deceased’s flag properly, fire the 21-gun salute, and present the spent (then polished) rounds to the family.
Long, who’s been a member 28 years (and a commander since May), served in the U.S. Army from 1971-1978, with tours in Korea and Vietnam.
“Our mission is to help veterans, no matter what their affiliation was (Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines). We’re here for what we’re supposed to be here for,” Long said, “not just to scarf down food and beers. This just gives them a place to come and call their own.”