Teen donates birthday money to veterans home for 11th straight year

April 8, 2019

By Ben Krimmel

Since his seventh birthday, Caleb Craft has taken the birthday money he receives and donates it to the local veterans home.

Now 17 and a junior at Jackson High School, throughout the years Caleb has collected nearly $4,500 in donations for the veterans home in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Of course, Caleb doesn't really think he's doing anything more than being a go-between of money and letters to veterans.

"Since it's not my money, I'm just kind of like the middle man," Caleb told Southeast Missourian.

"I'm really thankful to my family for giving the money and the letters and stuff. For me, my favorite part is when I go and drop off the donations, getting to talk to some of the veterans and seeing what they do with the money and it seems like it's run really good up there."

Caleb's connection to the service comes from his father Chad, a 22-year Army vet, and his grandfather, who served for 27 years in the National Guard.

"We believe that there's some simple truths we're supposed to live by," Chad Craft said. "And one of those things is helping people and trying to make things just a little bit better."

The Missouri Veterans Homes, which manages over 1,200 beds at seven different locations throughout the state, runs heavily on volunteers and the Craft family is glad to do their part.

"I think, again, that perspective you get from that, that you do your part in the greater good and then you get to see how all that works," the elder Craft said.

The money helps fund veterans home members' participation in a variety of outings and a whole host of fun stuff.

"What most people don't know is that the state only supplies the basic needs for the veterans that live here," said the home's supervisor of volunteer services Kristin Pind. "So that means they pay for the building maintenance, electricity and bills and things like that, the food and staff. All of the other fun things that you see that we do, like when we take them out to the casino, when we go fishing, do bingo, anything like that ... that stuff comes strictly from donations."

Past donations have helped with courtyard maintenance and to furnish a recreational room, while this year's donation will go toward the home's fireworks display, Pind said.

"We take our veterans out as much as we possibly can," Pind said. "It's good for them, and it's good for our community to see them out and about."

His son's actions make Chad one proud father.

"I think it's just been a good deal for us as parents, I think it's been a good deal for him and his growth," Craft said. "And I'll tell you, he does things every day that challenge us to be a little bit better. The fact that he has continued to do this and has done it with an open heart, I think challenges us to do a little bit better each day."

And Caleb hopes he can keep his 11-year run going for as long as he can.

"I know when I go off to college it may be a little harder, but I enjoy it," he told Southeast Missourian. "I enjoy visiting with the people, and I think it's important. I hope my family members don't have to end up there, but if they do, it's important to me that everything's run good there."

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