Quietly, behind the scenes, late Bud Miles ‘snuck’ money into fund for Camp Joy scholarships

Acts of kindness charity are a wonderous thing. 

The late “Bud” Miles, who secretly donated money to send kids to the Star Lake Bible camp.

Just look around you, in the Pelican Rapids lakes area.

The Pelican swimming pool project; the potential gift of a 165 acre public park on the shores of Pelican Lake; donors quietly stepping forward to support soccer programs and facilities in Pelican. 

Some of these acts are anonymous. Some not. But all of these gestures are a marvel. 

We recently encountered unusual acts of kindness, which would have been essentially lost to history. 

A Pelican Rapids World War II veteran, the late Sanford “Bud” Miles, donated scholarships for kids to attend Star Lake’s Christian Camp Joy. How many kids, how many life impacts, how much money given—we’ll probably never know.

It wasn’t in the millions of dollars, maybe barely in the thousands. But—it is the act that counts. 

The timing is appropriate, as Camp Joy is marking its 80th anniversary this weekend, July 24.

“Bud” Miles was the guy with one leg who shoveled snow, cleaned restrooms, and performed a wide array of tasks as an employee of the city of Pelican Rapids. The World War II Navy veteran died in 2007. 

But he will be remembered by locals, through the 1970s to 1990s. 

One of his city duties was running the ice skating warming house. There, he encountered dozens of kids—some less privileged than others. 

When he spotted a kid who maybe needed a little support, he’d call Van Holmgren, teacher at the Pelican elementary school.

“Hey Van, do you think little Jimmie Johnson could use a little Joy in his life?” 

After conferring with Van, Bud would put up the money for a one week stay at Camp Joy. 

Bud set aside money each month for camp scholarships, recalled Van. 

If he had less money than kids, he’d run over to Walt Boe’s grocery store. Walt would reach into the cash register, and hand over enough cash to make up the difference, as Holmgren tells the story.

“The scholarships were given anonymously…That was one of his missions in life,” recalled Holmgren. “Many people misjudged him, thinking he was just an old guy…But he had a heart of gold.” 

Even family members and relatives were not fully aware of this anonymous generosity. 

Nephew Paul Restad knew that Bud had a charitable streak—but he had no idea about the Camp Joy scholarships. 

“But it doesn’t surprise me…He was really supportive of kids, but not many people knew it,” recalled Restad. “He didn’t have much, but he gave a lot.”

Where did this giving spirit come from?  

Well, maybe it was the fact that his mother died when he was a toddler, speculated Restad.

Maybe it was his World War II service. He survived the Navy, but blew his leg up in a hunting mishap not long after discharge and returning to Pelican.

A craftsman and leather worker, his disability didn’t prevent him from work with the old Tandy Corporation. He joined the long-defunct leather company in Texas, and later managed a handicraft store in Minneapolis. 

Having one leg didn’t affect him when he later went to work for Pelican city, where he would shovel snow with the best of them during and after snow storms, said Restad. 

In addition to the city, he set up “Bud’s Repair” shop in Pelican, where he’d fix about anything—and also kept up his leather-working craft. 

Van Holmgren’s association with Bud evolved from the school. Bud would repair ice skates for the school, and also visited classrooms regularly.

“He was an avid reader and he loved poetry,” recalled Holmgren. At least once a year, he would come in to read poetry to the kids, and then pull out his leather-working tools as a demonstration for students. 

“He was always willing to show kids what he was doing…He made belts and billfolds for all of us,” recalled Restad, of the extended family of nieces and nephews. 

“He was a character…but not in a bad way. Bud was unique,” said Restad. 

“Bud was a mentor for a lot of kids in the community,” said Holmgren. 

As it turns out, Bud Miles did much, much more for kids than anybody realized. 

He brought Joy into their lives—in more ways than one.