The Maples family found Flight1 when they needed it the most. After the loss of her husband to cancer, Colleen could see that her children were struggling with their grief. 

“It doesn’t seem real that your dad is gone, to them it felt like an alternate reality.” 

Friends of the Maples family referred them to the Flight1 program, something they previously had no knowledge about. At the time, Colleen’s children were second grade and pre-school aged. In hopes that the program would help her children gain back some sense of normalcy in their lives, she reached out to Sandy Strawhorn—the director of the program.  From that moment forward, her two children became part of the Flight1 family. 

Although the program wasn’t something her preschooler was particularly interested in, her second grader almost immediately fell in love. Jackson, her second grader, went through the program over a period of three years. He participated in several events over the years including: movie nights, three flight stimulations, three flights, and various other events. Colleen says, “It really gave him a tangible opportunity to participate in something that felt more like a dream than reality.”

The impact that Flight1 has had on the Maples family, has kept both Jackson and Colleen involved with the program. Jackson, who is now 14, volunteers his time as a Flight1 Advocate. This includes going to stimulator and flight events as an ambassador for the program. Knowing what it is like to go through the program, he welcomes the families and stays with them while their child is flying. Jackson also continuously volunteers giving the children who go through the program their certificates and awards to celebrate their accomplishments. 

Colleen has continued to work with the program by volunteering as a board member, to contribute the perspective of someone who has gone through the program with their children.  Given the recent circumstances with COVID-19, she says, “It is encouraging to see the level of involvement of the board members and the staff who are trying to make this happen for everybody, especially during a pandemic. I am impressed by the responsible, responsive, commitment.”

She also spoke about how continuously being involved with a program like Flight1 has allowed her to give others the same support she was given during a time of need. 

“Being part of a program where you know other participates are experiencing similar loss or experiences or challenges, it is only the right thing to do to turn around and help other people because that was you a couple years ago. Some things are universal and others are not but you can still be there. It is important to give back and help like others helped us.”