You can read my previous entry if you want all the details about the organization and how fly days work, but basically, pilots volunteer to fly special needs children around for about half an hour and let them steer the plane to build their confidence and give them and their families an awesome experience. Volunteers lead the families to the planes, help get them situated, and keep them safe.
The clowns were making balloon animals as always.
Cheerleaders and the mascot (Dunker the Dog) from the Texas Legends NBA Development League team cheered on the participants as they boarded and deplaned. They also did a dance routine.
That’s apparently Spandy Andy. He’s an entertainer whose mission is to spread positivity through dance, and I can attest that it works. He had everybody smiling and a lot of the crowd dancing. I just looked him up and found out he was on Canadian So You Think You Can Dance and Wipeout Canada.
I only volunteered for the morning, so I only got to help two families fly. But it was still really cool. Our first co-pilot entrusted me with his balloon, and it somehow came untied and flew off. Fortunately, he was too excited to notice. One of my teammates joked, “You had one job!” Whoops.
Our second co-pilot, Roberto, was very enthusiastic. He not only wanted to ride in the plane and steer; he was ready to parachute out or at least race some other planes. After landing, he announced that he wants to be a pilot some day and give rides to other kids. Hopefully in about 20 years I will see Pilot Roberto flying at another Challenge Air event. He made my day.
One cool new thing at this event was that the kids got to put their handprints on the planes’ wings in washable paint after their flights. I don’t know how they came up with that idea, but the kids seemed to love it.
Although I signed up for the event through YAVO, I ended up on a load team with complete strangers. As always, it was really nice to meet them. The couple on my team told me they actually met while volunteering at a previous Challenge Air event. How cool is that? I told you volunteering is a good way to meet kind, fun people! Maybe even your life partner.
At the speech before the fly day started, the event chair said 120 kids would fly that day with 21 volunteer pilots. I am sure they all had an amazing time and made some lifelong memories.