Rolling Thunder, Inc. Illinois Chapter 3 is gearing up for Thunder Run, the organization’s most fruitful fundraiser of the year.

The fifth annual Thunder Run & Raffle will be held on September 28, beginning at the VFW in Olney, Ill.

Illinois Chapter 3 President Tony Schmidt said, “As with every year, we hope to raise as much as possible, but as long as we can continue our mission it makes the effort worth every bit of it.”

The raffle began as a means to raise money to further the organization’s mission of promoting and educating about the POW/MIA issues that over 82,000 American Service men and women are still unaccounted for since WW1. 

At the time of this interview, Schmidt was preparing for The Ride Home, which included a cross country motorcycle ride to Warner/Robbins, GA, in honor of national POW/MIA Recognition Day (September 20).

“They bring in living POW's and representatives of families that have an MIA,” Schmidt said.

The upcoming Thunder Run fundraiser allows the organization to carry out a myriad of other activities, such as providing education to the youth and general public about the experiences and challenges of military veterans, advocacy for veterans’ interests, and other demonstrations of honor.

Schmidt said, “We use the funds we raise to promote the POW/MIA Chairs of Honor we place at municipality and communities that wish to have one.”

The chairs are dedicated to the memories of POW/MIA’s and their families to offer a sense of closure.

Schmidt said, “The Vets and family members that come up after a Chair of Honor dedication … with tears in their eyes, thankful there are people out there still remembering their loved ones.”

The Thunder Run also helps fund the placement of “Super Hero Parking” signs throughout Illinois. The signs are placed at public establishments to honor veterans and local service men and women.

Rolling Thunder Illinois Chapter 3 members also deliver “Salute a Vet” framed flags to veterans residing in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and senior living communities.

Many Chapter 3 members spend quality time with veterans, offering friendship and company while playing cards and board games with them.

Schmidt said, “When we go to the different places to speak with the vets and take what we have for them it melts your heart … The appreciation they show … it definitely is a humbling experience any time we go.”

The 2019 Thunder Run fundraiser includes a meal, auction, raffle, and an optional a 175-mile motor bike run. (Schmidt reiterates that the organization is in no way a bike club, although many of its members enjoy riding motorcycles).

The ride will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Olney VFW.

Riders will stop in Grayville, Ill., for a snack at Outcast Airbrush, then continue riding through Carmi and Mt. Vernon. A stop will be made at the American Legion in Mt. Carmel before returning to the VFW in Olney.

The schedule proceeding the ride is as follows:

5:00 p.m.: Free will donation meal of pulled pork, sides, dessert

6:30 p.m.: Live auction

8:00 p.m.: Raffle drawing

The raffle will include a grand prize of $15,000 and (5) $1,000 drawings.

Raffle tickets cost: $100 donation. Only 300 tickets available.

Parties interested in participating in the event may contact Tony Mongo Schmidt at (618) 843-8079 or Kevin Foster at (618) 838-9548.