Sun, Nov. 17

He did it again!
95-year-old John Cornelius has raised more than $120,000 through Disabled Veterans Benefit Raffle

VILLAGE OF OAK CREEK - John Cornelius has made it his purpose to help disabled veterans in Yavapai County. So Cornelius, a Village of Oak Creek resident and World War II veteran, started the Disabled Veterans Benefit Raffle in 2006.

Since he began the benefit raffle, the 95-year-old Cornelius has collected more than $120,000 for the Bob Stump VA Medical Center in Prescott.

"I enjoy doing this," Cornelius said. "Every dime I raise goes to the Prescott veterans. This year, we think we'll exceed last year's donations."

"The veterans have given so much," said Tom Lockhart of Village of Oak Creek, a Vietnam War veteran who began helping Cornelius with the raffle five years ago. "We're trying to make it comfortable for the veterans at the VA."

"The man is a wrecking machine," said Ame Callahan, spokesperson for the Bob Stump VA Medical Center in Prescott. "What John raises is a significant amount to supplement what we do for our patients. John has tremendous energy. I don't know how he does it. I couldn't thank him enough."

In 2006, Cornelius, through his Disabled Veterans Benefit Raffle, raised $7,762.81 for the VA. Since then, Cornelius has never raised less than $12,244.12 in a year, topping out at $29,205.88 in 2011. Each year, Cornelius tries to raise at least $25,000 for the VA. "We made it once," he said.

After a career with the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Cornelius moved to Arizona in 1990, to retire - and to play golf. Once he was "too old" to play golf, Cornelius thought back to when he was at war.

"I remember the mule train would bring us rations," Cornelius said. "The guys that got injured, we'd put them on the mule train. I decided that in remembrance, I'd like to help the disabled veterans in Prescott.

"After visiting the management and patients at the Prescott VA, I knew I had to do something to raise funds to purchase items our government does not provide the disabled veterans, such as phone cards, movies for their rooms, flowers for their rooms, newspapers and magazines," Cornelius says.

Cornelius began contacting friends and former colleagues, as well as professional golfers past and present, looking for help.

"I started calling and writing letters," Cornelius said. "I write a lot of letters, over 100 of them each year. I contacted Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus."

"Bob Dole gives me $250 every year," Cornelius said with a smile.

This year, Cornelius has been able to collect 59 items and cash prizes to be raffled off, including a suite for the winner and 17 others at an Arizona Diamondbacks game, hotel accommodations, and gift cards and certificates from businesses across Northern Arizona.

Cornelius sells the raffle tickets in front of Weber's Market in the Village of Oak Creek. On Dec. 7 each year, in honor of Pearl Harbor Day, Cornelius and a group of volunteers draw raffle tickets in front of the market.

Mike Boblewski has been helping Cornelius with the benefit raffle since his arrival to the Village of Oak Creek three years ago.

"I moved here on May 17," Boblewski said. "On May 31, I met John. And I've been helping him ever since. I believe in helping veterans the best way I can. You can't give them enough."

To donate to the Disabled Veterans Benefit Raffle, call John Cornelius at (928) 284-0603 or send donations to John at: 5 Box Canyon Road, Sedona, AZ 86351-7706.

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