This past weekend pilots flew campers to Camp Pacifica, a camp for deaf and hard of hearing children and their siblings. 18 volunteer pilots flew kids from various airports across California to the Atwater Airport (MER) in Merced, CA to drop them off for camp. One of our AFW pilots, Rayvon Williams, took Donna Jones, Santa Cruz Sentinel staff writer, along as his mission assistant. Donna met Ravyon’s passenger and flew along with them to get the full Angel Flight West experience. Check out (link included below) Donna’s great article on the flight itself and the true importance of volunteer flying.
Angel Flight West recently received a generous grant from the Edward and Romell Ackley Foundation. The Ackley Foundation awards this grant as a fulfillment of their commitment to Romell Ackley, who wanted to help people and have the memory of her husband, Edward Ackley, live on. Edward Ackley, lacking a formal education, followed his creative talents and was able to leave this foundation to benefit future generations through his work as a leading manufacturer of hydraulic hand held tools.
Thank you to the Ackley Foundation for your support of Angel Flight West and the Oregon Wing. Your generosity keeps us soaring!
In my long tenure at AFW, I often meet passengers who I look forward to seeing at the Santa Monica office while they wait for their flight. One of these passengers is Roberta V. of Oakland, CA. Roberta has been flying with us since 2006 and has flown 168 missions. During that time, she has flown with 72 pilots–37 of those with pilot Victor Ninov!
Roberta has giant cell sarcoma, a non-malignant bone tumor. In her case, the tumor is in the sacrum, a bone at the base of the spine. While the tumor itself is not malignant, its growth can cause considerable pain and is known to metastasize to lung cancer. She was diagnosed in January of 2005, and at the time was living in Ventura. Roberta received radiation treatment and was seen by doctors at UCLA. Near the end of 2006 she decided to move to Oakland to be near more of her children. The doctor there referred her to Dr. Chua in Santa Monica for a clinical trial and they referred her to AFW. This solved her dilemma of getting to treatment once a month. She is part of a clinical trial provided through a charitable program by Amgen. The drug, Xgeva, is normally used to treat severe osteoporosis. At this point, they do not know enough about the drug to determine if and when she can ever stop taking it. For now, she will continue because if she stops and the tumor grows, she will not be eligible to return to the program. Roberta said that the most important thing about AFW is the confidence she has that she will get to this vital treatment every month.
Roberta cherishes the friendships she has made with pilots, Earth Angels and staff. She feels blessed to have the emotional support and genuine care and concern that she feels from all. I can say, from my heart, that she always brings a smile to my face when she walks in the door. Because of the ease of flying general aviation, Roberta is able to fly alone without help. At times, AFW flies her to either Lompoc or San Jose instead of home to Oakland so she can visit her kids and grandkids. This allows her cherished time with family that is very important to her.
Roberta and her daughter Mary Beth were guests at the Endeavor Awards. When I asked her how the evening was, her response was, “Oh my gosh! Each time something happened, I thought it couldn’t get any better. But the great things kept on coming right up to the USC marching band that concluded the evening.” She said she was on a three-day high following the event! Many thanks to our Board Member, Charlie Finkel, for sponsoring a table for Roberta and other of our passengers.
As I look back on the past eight years, I find I’m also blessed to have a friend like Roberta!
We are off to a great start in 2014! Our membership is up 10 percent. Total flights flown are up 17 percent. Flights requested are up eight percent. And most importantly, the number of passengers served is up seven percent. Passengers like one-year-old Zohie M. from Ronan, MT, who suffers from a condition called synostosis, runs the risk of severely stunted growth and development without surgical intervention at Seattle Children’s Hospital because her bones are fused together. Her condition causes her pain, and causes her young parents a lot of fear and anxiety. Angel Flight West offers hope for healing and health by providing the gift of flight needed to help Zohie and family access the medical care they desperately need.
It is incredibly humbling to serve in my new role of Executive Director at AFW because I see stories of indomitable courage and strength like Zohie and her parents every day, and I admire our passengers. In the same way, I admire our amazing pilots and volunteers who generously give of their passion for flying to serve our courageous passengers. I also admire our committed, talented staff and volunteer leadership who balance the busy and sometimes crazy world of our passengers, pilots, health care partners, and patrons to accomplish our mission efficiently and effectively. Between our courageous passengers, our passionate volunteers, and our dedicated staff, we make an amazing team!
Our challenge as we move forward is positioning our organization to serve more people in need of our gifts of flight. We are working hard to evolve our services to make things easier for our passengers, pilots, health care partners, and patrons. As patients become more and more responsible for arranging their own healthcare, we are continually revising our request process to make it easier for our passengers and health care partners. We eliminated member fees and started directly advertising on social media to sign up over 100 new members last month. We created the electronic waiver to make the day of flight simpler for our pilots. We hosted the Endeavor Awards to raise awareness and patronage for public benefit flying. (See pages 2 & 3). We’ve revised our website to help us get information out that is relevant and timely. Later this year, we will be integrating Earth Angels as a user group in AFIDS. This will allow us to recruit volunteer drivers across our region to assist in transportation to and from healthcare, positioning us to offer “curb to curb” service for our passengers. And there is more to come.
Angel Flight West is adapting to the challenges surrounding us while keeping our eyes on our mission. While we are buffeted by winds, we will continue to gain altitude. As we pass 60,000 total flights flown, let’s keep our communication open and the passion for our mission strong. Thank you for making this organization a source of such impact and inspiration. I’m really looking forward to what we can accomplish in our next 30 years!