That’s when the Rogers learned of Angel Flight West – a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization that arranges free air travel for people with serious medical conditions. For patients in Alaska, all flights are on Alaska Airlines, which has contributed more than $12 million in in-kind donations to the organization since 1986.
I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in June 2014. I started chemotherapy the day after I was diagnosed. My oncologist let me know that I needed a bone marrow transplant and that they do not do these transplants in Hawaii. I needed to go to a facility on the mainland.
Fortunately for me, my brother was a match and we chose City of Hope in California for the procedure. The bone marrow transplant took place November 2014. I was in the hospital for one month and then two more months close by so City of Hope could monitor my progress. After approximately 100 days post-transplant I was released to return back home to Honolulu in February 2015.
I found out about Angel Flight West from my insurance plan case manager. I was asking her about the out-of-pocket airfare expenses I was going to have to pay to fly from Honolulu to L.A., and if it was covered under my insurance plan. She indicated it was not, but that there were several nonprofits that donated flights for cancer patients.
She sent me a multipage list of several different organizations to contact and mentioned that AFW was probably my best bet. When I first read how AFW works with pilots and plane owners donating their time and aircraft to patients needing transport, I did not think it applied to Hawaii since no small planes would make the journey! I went ahead and completed the “Request A Flight” on the angelflightwest.org website just in case, and received an email back with a phone number to call requesting more information. I called and provided the requested information but didn’t hear anything further.
On my next appointment with my oncologist, I asked his office manager, Gemma, about it and she indicated that AFW would want something from the doctor to indicate medical necessity and that she would take care of it.
A few days later, my wife was contacted by AFW saying we were approved for travel and that they would book a flight for us. We just had to let them know where and when! It was a Godsend! They booked a flight for both me and my wife to LA on Alaska Air. They told my wife when we were done with the bone marrow transplant and the doctor released us to go home, to call them for the return trip!
Four months later we called and they booked our return flight again on Alaska Air–no problem! The whole experience was nothing but great!
What did this flight mean for me? Having AFW cover our airfare to and from California from Honolulu was a huge help. Since both my wife and I had to leave work during this whole procedure we had no income, and with the added medical expenses growing that we were incurring, funds were extremely tight. Not having to worry about how we were going to pay for airfare was an enormous relief!
Mission: 181598-1 on 10-03-2014 Passenger: Douglas H. (Post stem cell transplant (leukemia)
At one time I didn’t think there were good people left . I am so thankful for the pilots and you. You have found the best people ever that have chosen to share their time and tools to help others. All of you are amazing
Volunteer pilot Jeffrey Siegel flew passenger Doulas from Salt Lake City UT to Moab UT.
Mission: 181323-1 on 09-10-2014 Passenger: Gary P. (Brain tumor)
the service is a Godsend!!!!
Passenger Gary P. flown from Redding to Bend by Volunteer Pilot John Hayes.
Mission: 181021-1 on 08-16-2014 Passenger: Ashley W. (Endometriosis and Breast cancer)
All of the pilots were incredibly sensitive to my post operative pain and were very helpful! Can’t stop raving about you guys!!! Definitely the biggest blessing in the entire trip!
Pilot Hunter with passenger Ashley and her companion.
Mission: 179685-1 on 06-17-2014 Passenger: Nancy P. (Breast Cancer)
All flights have been wonderful, on time, in contact, no worries events. All pilots have been kind and friendly and happily told me all about the various controls that I asked about, out of curiosity. I’m just waiting for a surgery date right now.
Passenger Nancy is being flown from Oakland CA to Fresno CA by volunteer pilot Bill Vierra.
The first Princess Ball was held in March of 2009 as a homecoming celebration of life and the completion of treatment for four year-old Valicity Lee Faith. Valicity was diagnosed with Leukemia on January 14th 2008 — just 1 week before her third birthday. She went through 13 long months of chemotherapy in Seattle before the cancer was considered to be in remission; and our family was able to return home, with treatment cycles of chemo medication spaced out to once a month. We chose to hold a homecoming celebration of life with friends and family. We always considered her a princess so it felt appropriate to have a Princess Ball in her honor.
In March of 2010 Valicity relapsed with Leukemia and received additional treatment in Seattle. On July 6th 2010 Valicity lost her battle with cancer gaining her wings and joining the angels above.
In Valicity’s five wonderful, but short years here on earth, she proved that she had a gift, a gift of giving and bringing people together with her cheerful personality, contagious smile and laughter. This event is the perfect opportunity to celebrate her life and share with others some of the gifts that she gave us.
History of the Ball
In March 2011, we hosted the 1st Annual Princess Ball in memory of our little princess Valicity. The Ball was created for kids of all ages by allowing them to dress up and participate in fun games and events. The 2011 ball was a fundraiser for Angel Flight West — a nonprofit organization that helped transport our family to and from Seattle for Valicity’s monthly check-ups.
The 2011 Ball surpassed all expectations with more than 400 attendees and raised $15,000.
The 2nd Annual Princess Ball in January 2012 benefited “The Montana Hope Project.” This organization made one of Valicity’s dreams come true by helping her to visit Disney World. This event demonstrated Valicity’s gift to bring people together with over 640 attendees and more than $24,000 in funds raised that funded the dreams of at least 4 more children.
The 3rd Annual Princess Ball benefited “The Ronald McDonald house Charities of Montana.” This event once again demonstrated Valicity’s overwhelming gift to bring people together making it a huge success with bringing together over 1,200 people and raising $35,000.
The 4th Annual Princess Ball in March 2014 benefited once again “The Montana Hope Project.” In honor of our daughter and nephew Mikey Wilke who lost his battle with Muscular Dystrophy in 2013 joining his cousin Valicity. One of Mikey’s request is that he have the Princess Ball for the Montana Hope Project as he was also a recipient of this great organization. Also allowing one of his dreams come true by visiting Disney World. This event demonstrated Valicity’s gift once again selling out with tickets bring people together with over 1,500 attendees and more than $60,000 in funds raised.
This year the 5th Annual Princess Ball this year is going to be held on March 7th of 2015 at the Red Lion Hotel of Kalispell benefiting once again Angel Flight West. The goal is for that event to be bigger than previous years’, with more entertainment, raffle prizes, and drawings
AFW had a wonderful #GivingTuesday yesterday, December 2. For those that don’t know about #GivingTuesday it is global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world came together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.
One part of AFWs #GivingTuesday was a great news segment on KGUN 9 Tucson Morning Blend about Angel Flight West and one of our frequent flyers, 8-year-old Mason. Angel Flight West pilot Scott Lehman, from Premier Auto Center, surprised Angel Flight West with a $5K donation and also surprised Mason’s family with a car, so that they are able to make some of their appointments when pilots are not available.
The Casper Star Tribune recently shared a great Angel Flight West story on 18-year-old Angel Flight West frequent flyer Arianne Robledo. Arianne and her mother flew to Denver Children’s hospital for treatment that was not available to her in her hometown of Lander, WY.
Angel Flight West was recently able to assist passenger Mike Rogers of Alaska with travel for a potentially life-saving trip to Pacific Meso Center. Via our partnership with Alaska Airlines, AFW flew Mike to California for a consultation, where Mike found out about a surgery that may extend his life beyond the six-month prognosis he originally received in Anchorage. Check out the full story by author Tim Povtak from the Pacific Heart Lung & Blood Institute below!
Check out photos from some of our recent camp missions! This summer, volunteer pilots have flown kids to and numerous nonprofit camps – often the highlight of the summer for these campers. AFW pilots rock!
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.
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!