SAN DIEGO — Challenge Air for Kids & Friends Inc. hosted a Fly-Day at Brown Field, San Diego Jet Center, on February 27. The event was designed to change the perception of special needs children through the free gift of flight and is open to the public. Challenge Air is the favorite charity of contractor-members of Quality Service Contractors and Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association,
Challenge Air changes the attitudes of children with disabilities into attitudes of kids with capabilities. The non-profit organization provides an unforgettable experience for kids, opening the door to every possibility that life can offer. If they can fly a plane, they can do anything! The event is offered at no cost to special needs children and young adults between seven and 21 years of age.
Since 1993, Challenge Air has enriched the lives of children and youth with special needs through its unique aviation program. The community-driven program, Fly Days, brings together special-needs children, ground crew volunteers and volunteer pilots to provide the gift of flight. The group mainly operates through volunteers who want to share their love for airplanes. So far they've had more than 30,000 special needs kids and teens hop into their planes, and some even get to fly the plane.
According to Challenge Air Executive Director April Culver, nearly 1,200 special needs children are flown each year during Fly Day events hosted in 10 different cities throughout the United States. Culver said many non-profit agencies are involved in each event and provide various activities including a flight school, face painting as well as arts and crafts projects.
“This is a truly amazing event. As a volunteer, I have been able to experience first-hand, the smiles and tears of joy as a child returns from their first flight,” commented Harley Perry, Perry Plumbing, Heating & Air. “I will always remember this one child who was reluctant to speak, quiet and closed prior to the flight. When the plane landed he was smiling, laughing, and talking to his mom. She turned with tears in her eyes and a trembling voice and noted that this was a huge stride and he is going to do great things. A big hug and kiss followed. At that point, I understood what Challenge Air is all about.”
Organizers of the Fly-Day thanked Jeanne and Tom Ricotta for donating the airplane hangar at San Diego Jet Center, the Bonita Optimist Club for providing lunch for all attendees, Ball Honda for providing transportation, Perry Plumbing for the kid’s activities and event essentials, and Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of San Diego for a gracious donation.
Generous donors are the key to the success of Challenge Air and make it possible to give back to local communities. Anyone who would like to support a Fly-Day event or Challenge Air in any way should contact Juliet Siddons, event program director, at 214/351-3353 or [email protected]. Additional information is available at www.challengeair.org.