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Angel Flight Central - Giving Hope Wings

Written by  May 14, 2004

The unpredictability of life could put any of us in a position of need. Accidents do happen which may leave you with no financial resources. Angel Flight Central (AFC) is filling a critical gap in the health care support structure in our area, yet remains one of the area’s best-kept secrets. Their mission is to arrange transportation on behalf of people in need for the purpose of access to medical care or for reasons of compassion or community service. They know that personal, financial and insurance resources will only cover a portion of the costs associated with an illness or crisis. That’s where AFC steps in to remove the financial burden of air transportation as an obstacle to receiving medical or compassionate care and provide help and hope.

On Sunday, June 6, the Wings and Wheels ride to benefit Angel Flight Central will leave from the Kansas City Aviation Center in Olathe, Kansas. Registration begins at 10 a.m. This is a 100 mile dice run which will end at The Other Place in Olathe, Kansas. Last year’s ride was a Ride for Life and raised $21,000!

Originally known as Wings Over Mid-America, Inc., AFC was founded in August 1995 with four volunteer pilots hoping to help a total of two passengers per month. By the end of 2001, AFC had flown a total of 1,872 missions covering over 1 million charitable miles with a base of 416 volunteer pilots. As of December 1, 2003, those numbers have now grown to 3,890 missions flown with a base of 786 volunteer pilots. Scheduled missions grew 43 percent. The average mission flew 658 miles, took 4.6 hours and carried 1.8 passengers. With this being their ninth year, they are averaging more than 8-10 scheduled missions per day!

Initially, AFC served the Greater Kansas City area, but expanded in February of 2000, now coordinating missions through a ten-state region — Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. Before a person is approved for an Angel Flight, mission screeners require a third party professional’s verification of financial need and a signed medical approval form from the physician involved, which states the passenger is able to fly in a small non-pressurized aircraft. Once a passenger is approved, a mission coordinator matches the passenger with a volunteer pilot and aircraft.

Passengers are never charged for their flight. Volunteer pilots donate all of the costs associated with each flight. For every cash contribution of $1, pilots donate approximately $3 in flight services. AFC is totally supported by donations of services and money from individuals, corporations, foundations and trusts. All other needs of the organization are donated through in-kind gifts, such as office space which is generously donated by Executive Beechcraft. All other activities of Angel Flight are accomplished by “Ground Crew” volunteers and the Board of Directors.

Volunteers founded Angel Flight Central. In fact, for the first two years, the work of the organization was done entirely by volunteer members of the Board. In August of 2000, the Board adopted a new outreach structure to create many local Angel Flight chapters called WINGS, in communities across the region. Through this effort and the building of strategic partnerships, the ultimate goal is always to transport more people in need. The Board of Directors has kept the goal of founder, James H. Stevens, Jr. in focus, “We are simply about people helping people in need.” They remain committed to volunteerism, because volunteers are essential to their mission.

Our local area WING chapter is named Heart of America covering Western Missouri and Northeastern Kansas. To volunteer or to schedule a presentation from the Speaker’s Bureau, e-mail Shelley Wales or call 1-800-474-WINGS (9464) or 816-421-2300.

AFC’s success is best measured by a patient who has received life-saving medical treatment; a cancer patient who has participated in distant research to hopefully save the lives of others; a volunteer who has taken time out of their holiday schedule with family and friends to help arrange a flight for a stranger; and, the many hugs, grateful tears and smiles of passengers and family members who have recovered from the physical and emotional challenges they’ve experienced.

Online early bird registration is now through May 22, $30 for rider only and $45 for rider & passenger, includes t-shirt, pin and dice card. After May 22, it’s $35 for rider only and $50 for rider & passenger. First rider leaves at noon, last rider leaves at 1 p.m. After three stops along the route, you’ll enjoy food, live and silent auctions at The Other Place in Olathe. Let’s give hope wings by riding! Your contributions do help your community!

If you ever find yourself in need of air transportation assistance, call 1-877-621-7177 and leave a message with your call back number for a mission development coordinator at ext. 200. Your call will be returned as soon as possible and the screener will visit with you about your request. Remember, the bottom line for Angel Flight Central is to help save lives!

Story by Margaret Liggett