Passenger Stories

Stories from a few of our passengers showing the impact AFW has on their lives

ID Kenasyn and her Mom ready for a smooth ride L to R: Mom Candi B., passenger two-year-old Kenasyn B., ID Wing Command Pilot Rick Holloway, Mission Assistant and Rick’s wife, Jackie Holloway. Command Pilot Rick Holloway wears many hats. On October 28, he donned his Shriners fez and safely flew little Kenasyn and her mom from Boise, ID to Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City, UT. Kenasyn is receiving specialized treatment for scoliosis, and is the youngest of five children. Her mom is a stay-at-home mom and her dad is an instructor at the University of Idaho. This year her dad took a $10,000 per year pay cut due to changes in funding at the university, putting strain on the family’s finances. What the picture doesn’t show is that Kenasyn has a below-the-knee amputation of her left leg. Throughout the mission, she was laughing and thoroughly enjoying the flight despite her physical condition. Another reminder of the joy to be found in an AFW mission.
 Thomas Young NV  L to R: NV Wing Command Pilot Thomas Young, passenger’s wife Shari, passenger Alan H. and Mission Assistant John Young flying from Bend, OR to Reno, NV to participate at a Paralympic Sport Club. Alan returned from serving our country with traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress syndrome, and back injury. These clubs all over the country offer service members and veterans with Paralympic-eligible impairments like Alan’s a chance to get back in the game of living healthy, active lives through sports training.
 No. CA Noah-R-flown-by-Christopher-Bennett-3.14.14  No. CA Wing Command Pilot Christopher Bennett flew three-year-old Noah R. and dad Javier (pictured) from Porterville, CA to Oakland, CA. Noah was born with a rare birth defect and his body is missing the substance needed to break down sugar molecules, which affects bones, growth, and facial structure. When Noah was accepted into a clinical trial at Oakland Children’s Hospital, his parents were elated. Then reality set in. Their car wasn’t in shape for the 500 mile round-trip from their home, and airfare was out of the question. Noah’s case manager called AFW and our volunteer pilots have provided 10 round-trip flights. Noah’s dad wrote the following on our AFW blog: “The pilots and AFW program were awesome. Every experience was absolutely wonderful. The pilots were very caring and made us feel very comfortable in the sky as well as on the ground. God bless the pilots and Angel Flights.”
 HI KarenMadnPilotGregLanders  L to R: HI Wing Command Pilot Greg Landers flew patient Karen M. to her pancreatic cancer treatment at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu.  Karen lives in Haiku on Maui. She is presently unemployed and has exhausted her financial reserves from the repeated trips necessary for her on-going chemotherapy treatment.
 OR Brenna  L to R: Passenger Brenna, mom Robyn  and OR Wing Command Pilot Jim Origliosso. Our programs are a lifeline for people like Brenna J. of Eugene, OR. Brenna has Crouzon syndrome, a condition that prevents the skull from growing normally, affecting the shape of the head and face. Her family’s resources have been depleted by the high cost of treatment, so when doctors referred Brenna to Children’s Hospital in Seattle, her mother didn’t know how they could afford the trip from OR. A social worker contacted AFW and Brenna has become an AFW frequent flyer. Since 2004, our volunteer pilots have provided her with a total of 22 round-trip flights.
 NV Donna T flown by Rich Pickett 2.11.14  Passenger Donna T. with pilot So. CA Wing Command Pilot Rich Pickett. Donna is a 37-year-old single mother of five children. She has stage IV cervical cancer and needs to travel to Cancer Centers of America in Goodyear, AZ from Las Vegas, NV for specialized treatment. Donna left her job because she’s too ill to work, and her family’s only source of income is her monthly social security. Donna started flying with us last December and this year our volunteer pilots have provided 10 round-trip flights so that Donna’s transportation to her treatments is one less expense for her to worry about.
 Eliza Johnson Alaska  Eliza J.’s arthritis fused her left knee and when she walked, her foot would splay and she’d walk on her ankle bone. The family’s insurance would not cover travel costs to treatment. Her father Bryan said, “I can’t  tell you the difference AFW and Alaska Airlines have made in our Eliza’s life. You were a life saver! My now five-year-old daughter was living with near crippling pain for over a year. The treatment she received at Children’s Hospital Seattle has her on the way to recovery.” On the Saturday after the procedure, Eliza woke up and for the first time in more than a year, ran to her father’s arms. He asked if it hurt, and she replied, “Nope!”  Eliza celebrated her fifth birthday pain free.
 Joslynn B  MT Wing Command Pilot Christopher Boyer flew adorable Joslynn B. home from Missoula, MT to Billings, MT after she spent a wonderful time this past summer at Camp Mak-A-Dream. Camp Mak-A-Dream provides medically-supervised, cost-free Montana ranch experiences for children, young adults, women and families affected by cancer, as well as programs for children who have a sibling or a parent with cancer. You would never know that this beautiful, smiling nine-year-old is battling a brain tumor.
 WY Phoenix S flown by John Larsen 4.21.14[1]  L to R: Andrew, brother of passenger Phoenix S. in red, mom Patty N. and WY Wing Command Pilot John Larsen traveling from Sheridan, WY to Shriners Salt Lake City, UT. Phoenix is traveling for surgery and additional treatment for Larsen syndrome (no connection to pilot’s last name), which is a disorder that affects the development of bones throughout the body. Repeated trips have depleted the family’s funds.
 UT MelanieC  L to R: Melanie’s father, passenger Melanie C., Mission Assistant LeAnne Harper, and So. CA Command Pilot Rod McDermott. Melanie lives in Washington, UT and is battling kidney cancer. She is in a clinical trial in Los Angeles, traveling every two weeks to the USC Norris Cancer Center. Melanie wrote, “If there is a bright side to cancer, it’s that it can really reveal the true kindness and generosity of not only the people close to you, but of strangers. I try to drive, but I don’t have the best car and along with hotel stays and food in CA, the costs can add up (not to mention taking that drive every other weekend is just plain tiring!). I’m a recent college grad, so funds for all of these costs aren’t exactly available to say the least. For my last treatment, I was lucky enough to have the wonderful AFW pilot Rod McDermott, who voluntarily picked up my request. We had a delightful, easy flight with this incredibly kind man and were able to get to L.A. in time for my appointment. Unfortunately, complications often arise with these appointments and we needed a place to stay for under $100 for the night (my treatment study will only reimburse up to $100/night for a hotel). Rod called the Westin Bonaventure and explained the situation. The gracious people at that hotel were able to accommodate my father and me. I could not believe my luck and the immense generosity of all of these people I had never met. I am so thankful and only wish there was a way I could repay these amazing people.”
 NM Jessica  L to R: NM Command Pilot George Buddington, mom Ana S. and nineteen-year-old passenger Jessica Q. being flown from Santa Teresa, NM to Albuquerque, NM. Jessica is being treated for cleft lip and palate at the University of New Mexico.
 Nohema Fernandez  No. CA Command Pilot Nohema Fernandez with mom Joann W. and her son Kylde being escorted from Palo Alto, CA to Sacramento, CA. Joann is a single unemployed parent with no available transportation and limited funds. They are traveling for Kylde’s cardiology and genetics appointment related to liver disease.
 Jon Paulsen  UT Wing Command Pilot Jon Palsson with passenger four-year-old Natalia W. and mom Elsa on their way  from Winnemucca, NV to Sacramento, CA  where she is seeing an orthopedic hand specialist. Natalia’s family is on Medicaid and has no means of transportation to and from multiple treatments.
 Anthony Romaneli  Nine-year-old passenger Larry C. with So. CA Command Pilot Anthony “A.J.” Romanelli who flew him from Coalinga, CA to Santa Monica, CA for his ongoing treatment of liver and small bowel disease. Larry’s family has limited income and resources.
 James Turner  Passenger Alta T. in the right seat with No.CA Wing Command Pilot James Turner flying from Stockton, CA to Taft, CA. Alta is on a fixed income and unable to afford transportation to her mother who is in ICU in San Francisco with stage IV cancer. Alta is the legal guardian of three children during the week and travels on weekends as fulltime caregiver for mother.
 Bob Schaper on AF #700  WA Wing Command pilot Bob Schaper proudly displays the number of AFW missions he has flown since joining AFW only four-and-a-half years ago. Bob’s wife Carol, who enthusiastcally supports his flying says, “He is now going past that!” Thank you, Bob!
 Sarah Magera  Pictured is UT Command Pilot Virgil Wood flying passenger Sarah M. with mom Wendy on the 2nd of a 2-leg mission. ID Wing Command Pilot Steve Laflin flew the first leg from Helena, MT to Pocatello, ID. Virgil flew the last leg from Pocatello, ID to in Salt Lake City, UT. Sarah needs continuous travel to treatment for follow up appointments following a stem cell transplant at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, far from her home. Her illness has drained the family’s finances. In additon, the drive is 10 hours long and difficult on Sarah who is already physically compromised.
 Natalia Willis  ID Wing Command Pilot Nathan Smith flying passenger three-year-old Natalia W. and mom Elsa from Hailey, ID to Winnemucca, NV. to Natalia’s orthpedic hand specialist for consult and surgery to correct bilateral thumb hypoplasia. Thumb hypoplasia is a spectrum of congenital abnormalities of the thumb varying from small defects to complete absence of the thumb. Natalia’s mom is on Medicaid and has no means of transportation to and from the Natalia’s appointments.
 Jeffrey Siegel  L ro R: CO Wing Command Pilot Jeffrey Siegel, passenger Douglas H. and mission assistant. Jeffrey flew Douglas on both legs of a 2-leg mission from Salt Lake City, UT to Gallup, NM. Like many of our passengers, Douglas cannot afford travel expenses due to the high cost of his medical care for leukemia, especially for the distance he needs to travel. He travels frequently for post stem cell transplant follow-up appointments at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City from his home in NM–a physical hardship as well as a financial one.
 AZ Paul Kienow flown by Dennis Phalen 1.26.14  L to R: wife Penny, passenger 74-year-old Paul K., daughter Hana, AZ Wing Command Pilot Dennis Phelan, and Dennis’s mission assistant. Paul has been battling prostate cancer for ten years, and has accrued significant medical expenses. His local doctor referred him to Prostate Onclogy Specialists in Marina del Rey, CA–the only free-standing clinic in the U.S. devoted exclusively to treating prostate cancer. AFW has provided five round trips so Paul can get the treatment he needs to help save his life.
 Alex Roetter  No. CA Wing Command Pilot Alex Roetter flying passenger John M. from No. CA and Stanford Hospital to his home near Santa Barbara in So. CA. John is receiving treatment for kidney disease.
 Bobby Conley  CO Wing Command Pilot Bobby Conley flying passenger Tracey B. from Boulder, CO to Salt Lake City, UT. Tracey is on disability and is traveling  for on-going treatments for Lyme disease.