Earlier this year, Union resident Norma Klemme made an 80th birthday wish to help others, and as of this week her family and friends have made it come true — to the sum of $19,000.
That’s how much money Klemme received over the last several months in the form of birthday sponsorships for an 80-mile walk she is on the verge of completing, one mile a day.
As of Monday, Klemme still had 10 miles to go to reach her walk goal, but she far surpassed her dollar goal of $8,000, or $100 for each of her 80 years.
Klemme spread the word of her birthday wish with the help of her husband, the Rev. Armin Klemme, through emails and written letters to family and friends, including former United Church of Christ congregations where the Rev. Klemme had served. They also spread the news by way of the Missouri Conference UCC e-Courier and, of course, by word of mouth.
“Some had asked what I was going to do to celebrate?” Klemme wrote in her letters to friends. “I didn’t want to jump out of an airplane, etc. — so with God’s help, I ‘hit’ on this idea . . . so I am asking you to help me celebrate my gratitude for the blessing of 80 good years.
“Would you please think and pray about this? If you feel excited to help, you can send any amount to me . . . I know God multiplies what we do.
“If you cannot send a gift, please include these ministries in your prayers.”
Klemme said she didn’t know what to expect in terms of a response, but she never imagined the total would reach $19,000.
“People have responded in incredible ways,” she remarked. “I cannot fully describe how I feel — excited, thrilled, overwhelmed, awed! Grateful!
“In all of the thank-you (notes) I sent to people, I tried to express my gratitude for their overwhelming gifts! It truly is overwhelming!”
Klemme said her sponsorship gifts ranged from $5 to one gift of $2,000. As the gifts came in, they were divided among four of Klemme’s favorite causes — CROP Hunger Walk which provides one-quarter of its funds to Union Food Pantry and Loving Hearts Outreach in Washington, Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County, Emmaus Homes and the OCWM (Our Church’s Wider Mission), which is a ministry of the United Church of Christ.
“Armin has been a wonderful supporter of this . . . he helps me keep the recording and distributing straight,” said Klemme. “Funds have been distributed every one or two weeks as they came in, as I didn’t want checks to be held too long.”
Klemme said she was inspired to start this birthday walk fundraiser by her late friend Elenor Vieth, of Jefferson City, who did these walks twice — first on her 70th birthday, raising $7,000 and again on her 80th birthday, raising $16,000.
“She was an incredible witness to her faith, was in church work all of her life,” said Klemme. “She worked for Church World Service (CROP) for a number of years before she retired . . . she was a very positive Christian witness for me.”
Klemme noted although she’s never taken on a special walk like this one before, she has participated in the CROP Hunger Walks every year since 1960. This year’s event was held last Sunday, Oct. 7, at Lions Lake.
“CROP Walks used to be 10 miles in length. Now we say the length is not important, but the intention to help hungry people is what’s important,” said Klemme.
“The reason I’m doing the walk . . . is gratitude for God’s gift of a wonderful life. I have been incredibly blessed with great parents, a wonderful husband, four marvelous children, four grandchildren, great church families, marvelous health, all necessities for life and a faith that calls me to do what I can to help others.
“The last may be selfish, for it is incredibly a blessing to be able to give!,” Klemme added. “Life takes on new meaning!”
Klemme said her hoped for outcome of her birthday fundraiser is that “many, many people will be blessed by receiving good food . . . a secure, simple home . . . loving care, and . . . disaster relief, warm blankets, sustained hope, encouragement and to feel loved.
“And if others find joy, excitement in celebrating a milestone birthday, they may pick up the mantle and walk.”