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Ohio University aviation students lift up disabled, terminally ill kids with free flights

Colleen Carow and Anna Hartenbach | Jul 16, 2018
Kids in Flight
Whiskers and all, a little Wings of Wonder participant is ready for flight.Photos by KiF Board and Committee member Kimberly Viola

Ohio University aviation students lift up disabled, terminally ill kids with free flights

Colleen Carow and Anna Hartenbach | Jul 16, 2018
Whiskers and all, a little Wings of Wonder participant is ready for flight.
Whiskers and all, a little Wings of Wonder participant is ready for flight. Photos by KiF Board and Committee member Kimberly Viola

New Ohio University aviation alumni gave disabled and terminally ill children a chance to fly free last weekend with rides to the sky at the 15th annual Kids in Flight event in Cleveland.

OHIO provided two of just three planes that served approximately 350 guests who attended the Wings of Wonder (WOW) event at Burke Lakefront Airport. Kids got to mingle with their favorite superhero, learn more about aviation, and take flight with their families.

A non-profit founded in 2003, Kids in Flight offers children with serious illnesses or disabilities the opportunity to participate in aviation-related activities to give them a break from their challenges and help them enjoy being a kid.

 “The Department of Aviation is proud to support this event for the 2nd year. This is a great opportunity for our school to support a worthy cause, and show our students aviation being used as a tool for good,” said Aviation Business Administrator Steve Owens.

Andrew Rockefeller, BSA ’18, and Brian Rogers, BSA ’18, piloted two of OHIO’s Piper Warrior planes, which are part of the Department of Aviation’s main flight training fleet. Both alumni are headed this summer to jobs in the aviation industry.

Rockefeller, who is joining CommutAir as a first officer, said he enjoyed sharing his passion for flying with the children.

“These kids are going through things most of us cannot even imagine, yet they are so positive and happy. I think this is a lesson we can all learn from,” he said.

Rogers, an OHIO flight instructor, said the reward came from seeing the joy and happiness on the children’s faces during takeoff.

“A boy that was about three got into the plane crying because he wasn’t sure about it, but as soon as we lifted off the ground he was the happiest boy I have ever seen,” he said.

Kelly Shaffer, Kids in Flight secretary and registration coordinator, said pilot volunteers are essential to the program.

“It is important for pilots to participate in WOW because it’s what sets Kids in Flight apart from other organizations that support children with serious illnesses and their families. To our knowledge, absolutely none of them can boast that their event includes the opportunity to fly,” she said. 

OHIO has supported the event since Cynthia Calhoun, BSEE ’88, a Kids in Flight board of directors member, requested OHIO’s participation two years ago. The department expects to continue the tradition in 2019. To learn more about Kids in Flight, view the website or Facebook page.