Angel Flight at WVRC on June 28th
SEAN McMILLAN was in the saddle, since ex-Prexy MIKE had flown the coop down to Mexico. He called on NICK KAHRILLAS to lead the Pledge. Next up was LENNY, with our A Cappella rendition of God Bless America. I provided the Invocation, but managed to lose my page marker and thus could not provide the final of the three Lincoln quotes. For the record, from his 2nd Inaugural, “With malice toward none, with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the Nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan to do all which may achieve a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” He says much, in few words.
|Out Speaker, Cheri Cimmarrusti with visitor.
|Cadet Christopher Curry
We had one Visiting Rotarian, Ira Gottfried, from LA 5. I believe he is a candidate to join WVRC stay tuned. Sunny FRIEDMAN was with LENNY. And you should all know that meals are going up to $25, starting July 5th. This was an adjustment we considered earlier, and there are some extra costs associated with our first price, so this figure should be with us for a while.
There were several health reports. PP DON NELSON announced that CLARK McQUAY had just had a valve replacement. Audrey makes it quite clear that there are to be no phone calls or visits for a few days, since he does need to rest. SLOS VIAU reported that Marjorie had come through her heart operation very well, but is quite tired. Again, hold off on contact until next week, please. And GORDON FELL spent three days in the hospital, and has had a stint inserted. He is home again, and will be with us next week.
Guin LYSTER has reserved 20 seats for JVC Jazz Night at the Hollywood Bowl tickets are $20, the date is Sunday evening August 19th, with concert beginning at 6 pm. and you can picnic at your Bowl seats. Please call her at (310) 230-5400 to reserve your place.
It was time if there ever is for the Joke. SEAN, who is a pilot himself, proceeded to list some of the Announcements you don’t want to hear from your pilot. On a trans-ocean flight, the Captain comes on to say, “I just want to remind you that your seat cushions can be used as flotation gear.” You hear over the intercom, “Whoops” and then silence…The Captain announces, “This plane is a lot different than the planes I’m used to please give me a little leeway if the flight doesn’t go well”. “We’ve reached cruising altitude of 30,000 feet DAMN!” Midway in the flight, the PA says “Stewardess, would you bring three parachutes to the flight deck?”.
We made the Presentation of the Sword to the Outstanding Cadet of the UCLA Air Force ROTC unit. He was Cadet Christopher Curry but since he was commissioned a week ago, he is now 2nd Lieutenant Curry! He has been selected to take flight training, and will participate in several activities before joining his Class a year from now. The Air Force ROTC Commander, Lt. Col Kevin Grill, accompanied Christopher and both spoke about their program. As you probably recall, we support all three ROTC programs at UCLA the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and showing our support for these Officers-in-Training is an important aspect of our Community Service program. Both ED GAULD and KEVIN BADKOUBEHI have helped me present awards at their Award Ceremonies, and if you wish to join the group next year, please let me know.
SHANE WAARBROEK introduced out Speaker, Cheri Cimmarrusti. She is the Director of Mission Operations of Angel Flight West, and their Mission is to arrange free air transportation in response to health care and other compelling human needs. Cheri began as an Assistant Mission Coordinator in October of 1997, when Angel Flight West was carrying out about 900 missions peer year. She was promoted to Director of Mission Operations in February of l999. The Operations group has grown to five employees and now provides over 4000 flights per year in the 13 western states (including Hawaii and Alaska).
Sheri had a Power Point presentation to help with her talk. The organization began in 1983 with a group of about twelve pilots. They were asking what they could do with their skills and equipment. This happened to coincide with the start of clinical trials for cancer patients. This meant that patients needed to come in from rural areas, or sometimes get to other cities to receive their treatments. The group came up with the idea of transporting people who couldn’t afford to get to their treatments.That first year they flew fifteen missions. By 1994 they had grown to about 600 missions per year. Their totals weren’t rising, yet their expenses kept going up. So they set a goal of 1200 missions and they achieved that goal by Sept 20th, with a total of 1550 missions for all of 1996! In 1997 they began to establish Wings in states other than California. Then in 2003 they joined a national umbrella organization, and that was also the year they added Alaska and Hawaii to their network. In those two states in particular, they operate within the state boundaries only.
That same year they made an arrangement with Alaska Airlines, which provides about 750 roundtrip tickets each year to their patients. Most of these tickets are used to bring patients from Alaska down to the lower 48, since medical treatment within Alaska is not as available as elsewhere. In that regard, if you have unused Alaska Mileage, you can donate it to Alaska Air and it can be used for Angel Flight West patients.
Some statistics in 2006 they had about 1400 pilots and 400 non-pilot members, and they flew just over 4,000 missions. They now have 1600 pilot members and 509 non-pilots, and they are ahead of the pace at the same time last year. They transport patients for chemotherapy, transplants, and blood and medical supplies. Especially in the summer, they transport lots of children to and from special needs camps, cancer camps, HIV-AIDS, and for the most part, they are the pilot’s favorite missions. While some people might consider camps for kids to be a luxury, if you have ever attended one of these burn camps, for instance, it is wonderful to see an environment where the girls can wear bathing suits, tank tops, shorts and not feel self-conscious because they are in a camp full of people who are in the same situation they are. In domestic violence cases, they often transport the victim away to other states where heir abuser cannot follow.
As an example, in May, which is Prom Time, a seriously ill cancer patient had her Prom gown, flowers and all delivered and UCLA put on a Prom just for her. A recent problem has occurred, since wounded soldiers on home leave are brought to the U.S. but have no ongoing travel provided to their homes. For these 19 and 20-year-old kids, they didn’t have the resources to get home. This past May, they flew sixty wounded marines home to be with their families and for Cheri, this was her most rewarding event. She and her co-worker attended the Marine Birthday Ball at Camp Pendleton, where they were honored by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Heagy.
Their acceptance criteria are simple. You have to be ambulatory and medically stable, be able to get into and out of a small airplane with some help, and have a physician’s medical clearance. You can take oxygen if the pilot agrees, and you have to have a compelling financial need. Finally, they do not accept transporting a patient over one thousand miles. You can reach Cheri at (888) 426-2643, which is at Santa Monica Airport. All services are completely free. The record shows that for every dollar Angel Flight spends on operations, their pilots donate between four and five dollars. Those who are members of WVRC include SEAN McMILLAN, LEE DUNAYER, PETER MORE and BILL EDWARDS, plus our Visiting Rotarian today, Ira Gottfried.
Cheri provided photos of some patients, noting that Angel Flight can save them hundreds of dollars in transportation costs. More important, people who are seriously ill don’t want to spend many hours driving to their treatment. Their age range starts with infants and goes to age 97, so far. A story/example: a few years ago Cheri had a call from Stanford they had an adult cancer patient who needed several weeks of five-days-a week treatment. The patient was 42 years old, and lived in Pine Mountain, in a rural area relatively near to Stanford. It was a six to seven hour drive, or 30-40 minutes by small plane. This didn’t seem possible for Angel Flight to take on, since it meant morning and afternoon flights every weekday for five weeks and she didn’t feel she could round up that many pilots. The next day she got a two-page email from Renee, the wife of the patient, detailing their 15-month struggle with this most aggressive cancer. Included were photos of the family with two small kids. She picked up the phone and agreed to give it a try. She sent out an email to all their northern California pilots, detailing parts of the story. Within three hours, she not only had all the slots filled, but fifteen backups wanted to be included. So the family would get up in the morning, drop the children at daycare, pick up their flight at the Pine Mountain Airport, take their ten-minute chemo treatment, return to pick up the kids, and so back home. Angel Flight never missed a flight. The photo she showed was of the kids, holding a sign saying, “Thanks Angel Flight, for bringing Daddy home each night”. She also read a letter of thanks from Renee, which caused most of us to blink away tears.
WVRC and Santa Monica Rotary have paired up to provide a lounge at Santa Monica Airport. This will provide a private, restful atmosphere for the exclusive use of Angel Flight passengers. We will also provide auto transportation to and from the hospital for these patients. For people who are on a limited budget, as these patients are, a taxi ride to UCLA can cost about $15 each way and for those of us in this room, that may not seem like much. But for these patients, $30 can represent half a week’s grocery budget. This is a significant help to the Angel Flight operation, and we are indebted to SEAN and the other Angel Flight members for including us. We will be known as Auto Pilots working for the Angel Flight program SHANE WAARBROEK will take your signup, and MARK ROGO has the inventory of what we have and what we need in the Lounge.
Cheri Cimmarrussti, thank you for a most heart-warming presentation of how both pilots and others of us can help the many who are in need of our services.