Many of the children in our Courageous Fliers program have touching stories. That is the nature of working with families who have been impacted by a serious health challenge. Deklan’s story stuck with me for quite some time after I first met him at his Courageous Flier event.
Deklan arrived alone, with his mother, no siblings. He was excited to start the simulator, and seemed amazed by everything we saw on the tour of the Vincennes Aviation Tech Center before we got started.
As he jumped into the full-motion flight simulator, I spoke with his mother off to the side. I asked my usual favorite questions, “Has he been looking forward to today? Is he telling all his friends about it?” His mother smiled quietly and told me, “Deklan literally doesn’t have a single friend. Because of his health condition, he can’t be around other children.” I didn’t know what to say for a moment. I’m not sure I’ve ever met an 8yr old child who didn’t know a single other child. I always think of part of the fun of our programming, is when a Courageous Flier can go to school the next day and tell everyone they flew a plane. That wasn’t an option for Deklan.
Deklan did great in the simulator that day. He was excited to finish, and gave his mom a big high-five when he jumped down from the platform. I could tell he was proud of himself for doing something so unusual. Even without peers to tell about it, he built his own confidence by trying something new.
Sometimes the kids in our programs have lives that don’t look like what we expect. Sometimes they don’t have friends, or even classmates. The beauty of flight, is that it can give kids a sense of real accomplishment, even if there is no one else around. I feel lucky that I get to witness that.