As part of the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation’s program to provide dream flights for residents of the Boundary County Community Restorium, a fully-restored 1942 white and black checkered Boeing Stearman biplane arrived at the Boundary County Airport on August 11. Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation (AADF), aNevada based nonprofit organization, is dedicated to honoring seniors and U.S. military veterans by providing free flights in one of three fully-restored Boeing Stearman biplanes, the same aircraft many military aviators trained in during the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Their mission is simple, “giving back to those who have given.” All over the country, from February to Veteran’s Day, AADF’s vintage aircraft land at local airports near long-term care facilities where senior citizens and veterans can take flights and come alive with memories of their youth.
“We go where we’re asked to go,” explained Darryl Fisher, the organization’s founder and current president. “We try to fit in all of our requests.” Fisher, born and raised in an aviation family, added that their schedule is often a work in progress; adding stops even while enroute to destinations, trying to accommodate as many hopeful flyers as possible.
“The age of folks we’re giving flights to, they’re in their late 80s and 90s, there’s not much exciting stuff going on for them and we have an opportunity to give them a gift.” Fisher said. “A gift to make them feel alive again at a point in their lives when they need it the most.”
In August, five senior residents of Boundary County Community Restorium, a senior assisted living facility owned and managed by the county, received their gift. Piloted by Captain Mike Sommars, beaming with smiles and laughing with anticipation, residents including Evelyn Albno, 85, Laveeda Linnemajor, 95, Carol Pomery, 87, Don Dozier, 90, who served in the Navy as a Radio Gunner Aviation Radioman 3rd class, and Alma Pitman, 85, posed for photos and took personal flights in the restored plane. A few of them said that it was the best day of their lives.
Fisher is still taken aback by the foundation’s success, stating that this wasn’t intended, but just ended up this way. He never thought it would take off.
“It’s a very rich experience,” he added. “There’s a ripple effect – bystanders, the people working at the senior facility, people in the crowds watching, a very far-reaching effect. Not one I originally gave much thought to.” In fact, upon learning about the foundation’s cause, Northern Air, Inc. at the Boundary County Airport donated all of the fuel used for the Dream Flights as well as the use of their company vans for the day’s activities. The pilot, Captain Mike Sommars, received a thank you note after his visit from an elderly gentleman who had been at the airport watching, recalling how much he had enjoyed it. When the man passed, he asked that all donations be made to the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation because it had touched him so. This was a man who did not even fly.
The organization reached a landmark last year on Memorial Day, giving its 1,000th Dream Flight in Minneapolis. This year, on October 27, they will give their 2,000th Dream Flight in Oxford, Mississippi, where the very first Dream Flight took place in 2011. To be able to continue serving the high demand of Dream Flight requests, AADF hopes to acquire a fourth aircraft and have it based in Military City, USA – San Antonio, which has been in the U.S. military landscape for almost 300 years and has the largest active and retired military populations in the country. The aircraft will be appropriately named, the “Spirit of San Antonio.” The fourth plane will allow the organization to better serve the ever-growing senior veteran population in the region and will allow for more coordination for nationwide requests for Dream Flights. AADF is currently at about 50 percent of their fundraising goal. “It may take us another year, but we will get the airplane,” Fisher stated.
Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation will have over 800 flights this year alone and relies solely upon donors and volunteers.
“It’s expensive to run the airplanes and do this the right way,” Fisher stated. “But this is a grassroots deal, our best fundraisers are simply to go out and fulfill our mission.” He explained that often people just witnessing the flights have been moved to write checks. In their five years of existence, they’ve only had one fundraiser, which was this past September in Washington D.C.. “It speaks to the power of the mission,” Fisher added.
The organization hopes to be back in Boundary County next year, Fisher confirmed that once they visit a place they often receive requests for a return trip. To stay updated on their flight schedule, to make a donation, or to apply for a Dream Flight, please visit their website at www.agelessaviationdreams.org. For more information on Boundary County Community Restorium please call 208.267.2453.