$40K raised so far for Freedom Rock in Albert Lea

Published 9:00 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

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The Albert Lea American Legion Riders’ fundraising effort for the new Freedom Rock at the Freeborn County courthouse has thus far raised over $40,000, which is about $10,000 shy of the likely $50,000 that will be needed to make the project a reality.

Artist Ray Bubba Sorensen II is expected to begin painting the 28,000-pound boulder to honor veterans and fallen military members Sept. 17 outside the Freeborn County Courthouse, said Scott Kallberg, one of the Legion Riders members who is part of the effort.

Crews from Dean’s Towing hauled the boulder into town last November that was found by Legion Riders member Lowell Millhouse in the edge of a cornfield near the Ulland Bros. pit north of Good Samaritan Society. The boulder was set in place outside the north side of the courthouse with a large crane and crews from Meyerhofer Crane & Rigging Services. Both companies donated their services, Kallberg said.

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“It makes you feel really good,” he said of all of the volunteers who helped get the rock in place outside the courthouse. “We’ve got a great community here.”

He said he has been pleasantly surprised at how well the fundraising has gone thus far and said he is thankful to businesses that are also donating in-kind services to make the project happen. He said Country Inn & Suites donated Sorensen’s room for the time he will be in town painting.

Freedom Rocks originated in Iowa by Sorensen with a 12-foot-tall boulder in southwest Iowa near the small town of Menlo, Iowa. In 1999, Sorensen painted a simple “thank you” to veterans on the boulder and has continued to honor veterans by donating his time for new murals on this boulder every May for Memorial Day, drawing in people each year to see what he has created. To expand this message further, Sorensen felt compelled to do more and set out in hopes of every county in Iowa having a Freedom Rock of their own. He has also painted a handful in Minnesota, including Kasson.

“He’d like to have one in every state before he dies,” Millhouse said.

Kallberg applauded Sorensen’s work and said the Riders are still figuring out what to have the artist paint.

Each Freedom Rock has an American flag painted on it and has consistent themes, though often there are scenes with local veterans or other local ties

Kallberg referenced Chief Warrant Officer Corey Goodnature, an area native who was killed in 2005 when his company’s helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan while attempting to rescue missing U.S. Navy SEALS.

“That foundation has done so much for this community out of that tragedy,” he said.

The Freedom Rock in Lake Mills recognizes Brigadier Gen. Joseph M. Colby, also known as Mr. Tank, who was a Lake Mills graduate, as well as former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who was a Lake Mills native and veteran.

Anyone with ideas for the rock can contact Kallberg at 383-6483.

“I’d like to honor every single vet in the county — here or gone,” he said. “But no matter what ends up going on there, it’s going to be great and honor veterans.”

They also hope to set up a QR code that people can scan to highlight parts of the rock in more detail.

People wishing to donate can do so by mailing a check or dropping off a donation to the Albert Lea Chamber Foundation at 132 N. Broadway.