Kansas City Foot and Ankle and Challenge Air Day
Kansas City Foot and Ankle had the honor of volunteering with the Challenge Air organization’s annual Fly Day at the downtown airport in Kansas City this past weekend. The whole staff is on a bit of a high this week after participating! This is the 3rd year that our KCFA team has volunteered to be a part of the ground crew for this event. We volunteered to usher the kids from the staging area out to the plane for their unforgettable trip around the city! This event was so cool, and we all left feeling happy, fulfilled, and very, very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such an awesome event!
The Challenge Air Organization
Challenge Air was created in 1993 in order to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs, through the gift of flight. The flights take place in single and twin-engine airplanes flown by volunteer pilots. These events are dubbed ‘Fly Days’. Our own Dr. Green volunteered his time and piloted the kids for several years! The organization’s network of 3,500 volunteers across the nation help on Fly Days with around 100 kids. The kids go up in the planes for a 25-minute loop around the city.
Fly Days were designed so these kids would have the opportunity to co-pilot a plane, which builds courage and self-esteem. Another benefit is that the program is a fantastic way for the community to get involved. Challenge Air is open to kids with special needs between the ages of 7-21, and is offered at no cost to the kids and their families.
Volunteering for this event was fun, educational, inspiring, and extremely rewarding. The Fly Day was very well-organized. Volunteers were put into teams of four; a Lead Loader and 3 Loaders. The function of this team is to escort the kids from the hangar, down the red carpet, and then out to their plane. You can’t imagine the excitement as these kids hit the tarmac! The Loaders make sure the path is clear and it is safe to cross; because with 20 planes in the area, there is a lot of traffic! Loaders also help secure the kids and their families (typically they can take 2 guests) in the planes.
Once all safety precautions are checked, it’s time for take-off! The pilots follow a route around the city that goes over Plaza, out over the Chiefs and Royals stadiums, then over Worlds of Fun. The kids reported that these venues were super cool to see from the sky! The kids get to act as co-pilots, taking control of the yoke and flying those birds!
After their 25-minute tour, the planes land with the help of the co-pilot, of course. Then the Loaders go out to greet the plane and help everyone disembark. A lot of the kids enjoy sitting in the plane for a bit. They like to relish their flight and check out all the controls! At the end, each child is presented with a pilot-signed certificate and a pair of wings. As we escorted the kids back to the red carpet, it was so fun to hear about their experience. Many were very enthusiastic about what they liked the best! Additional volunteers line the red carpet and clap, cheer and celebrate the kids as they walk back into the hangar.
You can’t help but feel changed after an event like this. Ultimately, we were exhausted, but in a really good way. We each met and connected with different kids and family members – and have lots of fun stories and memories! We will all be back next year to help these kids realize that only the sky is the limit for them!