Flights for vets
Ageless Aviation coming to Waupaca
By Angie Landsverk
Some veterans will get the chance to ride in an aircraft used to train military pilots in the 1940s.
The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation will bring its Dream Flights to Waupaca Municipal Airport-Brunner Field on Thursday, June 22.
Approximately 12 veterans will be chosen to ride in the Boeing Stearman, a World War II open cockpit biplane.
“The focus is on those living in long-term care facilities. We really evaluate their stories and their experiences,” said Holly Hurda, an account liaison at Heartland Hospice Care.
The Waupaca County Caregivers Coalition is sponsoring the event.
Heartland Hospice Care is part of the coalition that educates and supports caregivers through community awareness.
“We’re always looking for sponsors. We’re still taking applications for flyers,” Hurda said.
The deadline for both is Thursday, May 25.
People interested in sponsoring a flight, and veterans interested in flying may contact Hurda at 715-525-1683.
She said preference will be given to local veterans living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities who are close to the end of their lives.
The cost to sponsor a flight for a veteran is $250. There is no charge for the veterans.
“They offer 10 to 12 flights per day,” Hurda said. “They pick 10 to 12 (veterans) and usually a couple alternates. Twelve to 15 sponsors are ideal.”
Each veteran will be assisted into the aircraft and will have an approximately 15-minute flight over the area.
Other costs for the event will include food, refreshments and the rental of portable toilets.
The flights will begin at 9 a.m. and end around 4 p.m.
“The public is invited to watch and be spectators,” Hurda said. “We encourage families and kids. There’s going to be free food for everyone in attendance.”
The nonprofit Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation honors seniors and U.S. military veterans, and its main focus is people living in long-term care communities.
To date, there have been 2,276 Dream Flights.
There were 780 flights in 2016.
The foundation is the result of a family’s passion for seniors and aviation.
William L. and Dorothy Fisher started its aviation heritage in 1940.
He bought a Boeing Stearman for $1,200 but later sold it.
In 1965, they decided to open a senior health care facility in Roseburg, Oregon.
Aviation and senior care and service became a priority for three generations of the family.
In 2011, William Fisher (the couple’s son) was joined by his son, Darryl, in traveling throughout the United States, giving veterans and seniors in long-term care communities an opportunity to fly in a newly restored Boeing Stearman.
Darryl and his wife, Carol, then decided to establish the nonprofit Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation.
Hurda said Dream Flights took place in Stevens Point the past several years.
“We wanted to bring it to Waupaca County as well,” she said.
Now, efforts are underway to add a Boeing Stearman at the Stevens Point Municipal Airport.
It would be the foundation’s fourth aircraft and would be called the “Spirit of Wisconsin.”
“It would open up more dates for flights for local veterans,” Hurda said.
The foundation’s goal is to raise $125,000.
A Tuesday, June 20 golf outing, at Sentry World Golf Course, in Stevens Point, will raise funds for the airplane.
It will be a four-person scramble, at a cost of $150 per golfer.
The price includes 18 holes of golf, riding cart, lunch, three drink tickets and dinner.
Locally, organizers of next month’s Dream Flights are working with Beth Andersen, manager of Waupaca’s airport.
Someone who works with the foundation visited the terminal last year, she said.
“He explained to me about the group and the goal to raise enough money to have a plane to keep at the Stevens Point airport to fly veterans. I was very excited that they wanted to expand the Stevens Point Ageless Aviation Dream Flights to include Waupaca,” Andersen said. “I feel it is very important to do want we can for our veterans to show our appreciation to them for what they gave for our country. The group of people that are working to make this event possible have been awesome.”
Hurda encourages veterans who served overseas and stateside to apply.
While World War II veterans continue to receive rides, more veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars are getting rides as the number of WWII veterans dwindles, she said.
People are encouraged to apply again if they are not chosen for this year’s Dream Flights.
“We hope to make this an annaul event,” she said. “It’s been life-changing for some veterans.”