wouldn't you love it if . . .

kids could fly as high as their dreams?

You guessed it! They can! At least, in Tucson, Phoenix,  North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Kansas, Missouri, Massachusetts and Florida.

A non-profit 501(c)3 organization called Wright Flight,Inc.  was started in Tucson, Arizona, by a retired Air Force Reserve fighter pilot called Robin Stoddard. Stoddard said that he had noticed that planes have a profound effect on kids. He decided to use that fact to make a difference in their lives. He developped a flight training program and materials for kids. Then he found other volunteers to help teach the kids to fly. Next, he put out the word that any kid who wanted to do it badly enough could learn to fly for free.

Well, that “free” really caught the attention of kids and parents alike. And while the parents truly don’t pay anything for the flying lessons, the kids do.  They have to keep their grades up in school and they must volunteer in the community. Once they have met their hours requirement, they turn in copies of their report cards and get a teacher to recommend them.

You may wonder how I know all this . . . well, my grandson, who has just signed up for the program, told me. For him, this was a no-brainer decision to fulfill his dream of flying. He comes from a middle class family whose income stretches well for the family, but would not allow flying lessons at $129.95 a session. (And that’s the low end in Tucson.) So, he knew it wouldn’t happen unless he made it happen. And so, he found Wright Flight and got the ball rolling.

But, most of the Wright Flight kids are not so self-motivated and don’t have my grandson’s self-esteem and self-direction. That’s exactly why Robin Stoddard started the program. As of 2011, approximately  10,500  successful students have graduated Wright Flight Training –over 750  in the Tucson area during this school year! Stoddard keeps 21 pilot-instructors and over two dozen volunteers working so that those successful kids can have their flight lessons and time.

Wright Flight, Inc. was selected to receive the 2011 Outstanding Achievement in Public Benefit Award by the National Aeronautic Association. On September 15th, Stoddard received the award on the steps at the US Capitol building.  “While it’s certainly a mark of distinction for the organization,” Stoddard said, “this award really honors our sponsors, volunteers and the countless children who have not only raised their grades, but experienced the profound challenges of flight. The emotional response that we get from every child that takes off in a Wright Flight airplane is a weekly reminder that we are doing the work we set out to do. “

Rock on!