Instead of spending her Fourth of July holiday playing games with her friends and hanging out with her family, one Oro Valley youth decided to do something a bit more patriotic—gathering funds for veterans. Already this is impressive, but even more so when you find out she’s not even in middle school yet.
Nine-year-old Alexie Danna first learned about Honor Flight Southern Arizona when she was six. Three years later, she’s more active than ever raising funds to send World War II veterans to their memorial in Washington, D.C.
“She’s always trying to get the word out,” said Cindie Danna, Alexie’s mom. “She’s a sweet kid, and if she wants to do something, she’ll set her mind to it. She’s always been unique, so I can’t say I’m too shocked about this.”
So far, Alexie has raised enough money to send four veterans to D.C., and is busily working towards a fifth.
Alexie has raised the funds by herself, with her friends, partnered with a Chipotle restaurant in Oro Valley and for this year’s Independence Day celebration, set up a table with the Oro Valley Police Department.
“We thought, ‘If we could get behind it, why wouldn’t we help support her?’” said OVPD Lt. John Teachout. “We were pretty excited about it, and people were very generous.”
The police even allowed Alexie to decorate their table and tent. At the end of the day, she earned more than $400 for veterans.
“If she wants to come out next year, we’d be happy to have her,” Teachout said.
Alexie was first inspired to support Honor Flight Southern Arizona when she attended the 100th birthday of family friend and World War II veteran Roy Beebe. Although Beebe was not able to fly out to D.C., Alexie wasn’t deterred from shifting her support to other veterans.
“She’s been so good to us, especially for someone so young,” said Kathy Mansur, from HFSA. “She’s unique in that she even comes up with fundraising ideas of her own.”
Since forming in 2011, HFSA has sent 808 veterans to D.C. on 24 flights. Many veterans never get the chance to fly across the country and see the memorials dedicated to them, and Honor Flight provides that opportunity.
“It gives them some closure,” Mansur said. “It lets them know that they weren’t forgotten.”
Takeoffs for the veterans’ flights are early for an elementary school student, generally around 3:45 a.m. This can require getting up around 2 a.m., just to get to the airport on time. But Alexi doesn’t mind.
“She sent herself to bed early for a week prior just to make sure she was well-rested enough,” Cindie said. “She hopped right out of bed and was ready to go, just to cheer them on.”
Honor Flight originally only offered flights for WWII veterans, but recently included veterans of the Korean War as well. According to Mansur, they just opened applications for Vietnam veterans, although WWII still has priority. They expect to begin flying Vietnam veterans sometime in 2019.
“We anticipate that list to be very large,” Mansur said.
With every veteran they send out, they also include a guardian who pays their own way. Along with the trip, Honor Flight also takes a brief biography of the veteran. This documents their story and helps match them up with those they served with.
In their time, Honor Flight Southern Arizona has successfully matched up long-lost WWII partners.
“Once in a while, you get a story like that,” Mansur said. “It’s so incredible.”
For more information, or to make a donation, visit honorflightsaz.org