Racing pigeons have a long history of serving in times of war, and from September 11th through November 11th (Veteran’s Day), racing pigeon lofts across the United States, will participate in a Cross Country Pigeon Relay to raise funds for “Building Homes for Heroes”, an organization that builds and gifts, homes customized for the needs of wounded warriors.
Every 10 days, Building Homes for Heroes, hands over title to a home customized to the specific needs of the veteran recipient. Some homes are “new construction”, built from the ground up for the specific needs of a wounded veteran and some homes are completely remodeled donated bank repossessions. These homes are handed over debt free along with financial education classes to equip these wounded warriors with the tools necessary to maintain their new homes and upkeep their tax payments and other cost associated with home ownership.
The relay will start from Vancouver Washington on September 11th, when a team of racing pigeons released, will return to their home loft in Salem Oregon, from there, another team will be released, in Salem Oregon returning to their home loft in Grants Pass Oregon. When these birds arrive in Grants Pass, another team will be released, flying over the Siskiyou Mountains to Redding California, and so on until they reach their final destination in Daytona Beach, Florida.
In all, there will be relay lofts across 11 states; WA, OR, CA, NV, AZ, NM, TX, LA, MS, AL, and Florida. Over a 62 day period, a 4000 mile relay race will be flown to raise funds for wounded veterans, who need customized homes, to meet their special requirements.
Racing Pigeon Fanciers from across the country have volunteered to be host lofts, for this charity event. They will personally incur the expense of getting their birds to the loft upstream from them, and when their birds arrive home, they will release the birds sent to them by the loft down stream from them.
As of June 29th, we have nearly 90% of this cross country relay filled in, and it has been rewarding in that almost every fancier called and asked to participate has said yes, or if unable to participate, they have suggested a local loft that would be able to fill the gap in completing this relay race to benefit our special needs veterans. By the time you read this article, we hope to not only have the complete route filled in, but also have special local auctions and other fund raisers along the way to raise additional funds for these wounded warriors.
I have never seen anything like this, and it is truly overwhelming, to see how everyone contacted, is in complete support of the project. For example, I sent birds this year to the IF Convention Race on Long Island, NY, and called the coordinators to tell them that my birds were on the way. In passing, I told them about the fund raiser we were doing for the veterans, and they offered to place 12 birds from the best breeding lofts on long Island, into the best handler lofts for the convention and give 100% of the breeder and handler prizes won by those birds to the fund raiser.
And, this is how it has been with everyone I have called about this project. I am just overwhelmed at the reception this project is receiving. Everyone, I have contacted, either jumped at the opportunity to host a relay leg or gave me the name of someone local to them that would take on the relay responsibilities.
Some of these relay hosts are taking on long stretches of desert. For example, the leg from San Berardino, CA to Las Vegas, the leg from Las Vegas to Phoenix, the leg from Tuscon AZ, to El Paso, El Paso to Midland TX and Midland to Kerrville TX. There is just no other way, there are no other clubs or lofts and these relay participants are tackling 170 – 250 mile segments of the relay across the harshest of environments. That is how much they want to help our wounded veterans.
Some legs of the relay, where it corresponds to the club’s YB race schedule, will be flown as special club races, with special entry fees collected and donated to the fund raiser. Some relay leg fanciers and clubs have said that they will release the next leg birds from local veteran memorials, instead of from a relay loft.
Another aspect of the project we are working on, is making message capsules for the relay birds to wear, that will contain copies of messages carried by our birds in time of war. We plan to incorporate the honorable service of our birds and their wartime handlers during WWI and WWII, and how these many years later, they are serving again, in this cross country relay to raise funds for our wounded veterans in need of special housing.
I am amazed how much hunger there is to do something beneficial for the sport. Something that allows us to put our best foot forward and tell our communities about our sport. It is hoped, that as the birds make their way across the country, that local news organizations will carry the story of the relay, the funds being raised and the history of our birds in wartime service.
Yes, there are still challenges and things can go wrong, but there is also real excitement out for having an opportunity to show off, the history of our birds serving in the military, to project our sport in a positive way and to help our veterans.
I will try to keep you updated, through the Racing Pigeon Digest, with further developments, and progress of the relay. We will also have a website up and running in August at oldgloryflight.org and we have a Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/oldgloryflight
Here is a partial list of those who have chosen to participate in this relay. By the time you read this it will have grown, to fill in the yet undesignated relay leg participants. Most are individual flyers and some are contacts with a club sponsoring a relay leg.
Mike Coleman Salem OR, Russ Codd Grants Pass OR, Walt Schaffer Red Bluff CA, Carl Perry Hilmar CA, Darryl Coston Bakersfield CA, Leonard Lee Oak Hills CA, Vicente Valenzuela & Oscar Ruiz Las Vegas NV, Bob Swanson Waddell AZ, Mick Claves Tucson AZ, Bill Jacques / El Paso RPC El Paso TX, Cole Creek / Blue Collar RPC Midland TX, Trey Crooks & Gary “Bear” Donelson / Heart Of The Hills RPC Kerrville TX, David Stanley Splendora TX, Fred Werner Lafayette LA (has arranged all relay lofts from Splendora TX to Pass Christian, MS), Charles Lee Pass Christian MS, Chad Ward Cantonment FL (has arranged all relay lofts from Pass Christian, MS to Defuniak Springs FL), Frank Smitty & Wes Howell (handling from Defuniak Springs to Tallahassee / Monticello FL), Jerry June Fort White FL, with the final relay leg being a “Special” club race from Fort White to the Daytona Beach area lofts of the Florida East Coast RPC.
In our future Racing Pigeon Digest updates, we will announce the address of the special webpage, soon to be created by Building Homes for Heroes, that pigeon fanciers can use to donate in the name of our fund raising event. By donating through this special webpage, we will be able to determine how much money was donated to Building Homes for Heroes, by the racing pigeon community in response to the cross country relay. There will also be a mailing address for those who prefer to donate by check. Please look for this information in our future updates, in the Digest, and on the website oldgloryflight.org or our Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/oldgloryflight
To all racing pigeon fanciers around the country that are wondering how they can participate in this fund raising event, I would suggest having your club designate one of your YB races as the Building Homes for Heroes Race, collect entry fees from all flyers and donate the proceeds through the special webpage or mailing address to be announced, as mentioned above.
We will list your race on our website oldgloryflight.org along with the race results and any article you want to submit about the event and how it went. This could be a good publicity opportunity for your club and hopefully will project our sport in a good light, in your local newspaper. We will have materials for you to use to reach out to the media with your event.
If you have any questions, feel free to call