Guest Blogger: Making a Difference With Wings and Wheels

By August 29, 2013Stories from the Blog

Guest blogger Tom Hanley is Director of Business Development for Indianapolis non-profit Nine13sports.

I learned of Flight1 in the summer of 2012. I come across lots of non-profits as I work to steer my own, Nine13sports, towards growth and success, but something felt different with Flight1—something drove me to want to learn more. I reached out to them and got to know Marcus Strawhorn, Flight1’s founder, pretty quickly. I became enamored with the incredible opportunity they provide for youth, such a beautiful and simple goal that is life-changing for the children that participate in it.

I was thrilled when Marcus invited me to Flight1’s Community Day last month. My wife Lauren had heard me talking about how great this organization is for a year now so she accompanied me to the event to see for herself what I’ve been raving about.

The event was beautifully done. Walking into that hangar with airplanes both big and small brought back my love of airshows and airplanes. My mechanical side was in awe of all the plane engines that were training/teaching aids for the mechanics at  the Tech Center. Standing outside and watching the planes land at the airport with only a fence separating us was breathtaking.

Tom Hanley_Nine13Sports_2013 Comm Day

But none of that remotely compares to the joy Lauren and I were seeing in the smiles of the kids who were there. Previous flyers of Flight1, their family and friends…it was incredible to see how many kids were there and genuinely excited about everything that was happening—from touring the big airplane (a 737) to getting a chance to climb into the basket of the hot air balloon.

I won a silent auction for time in the flight simulator upstairs, something that I have always wanted to experience. While waiting for my turn I got to meet one of the first flyers of Flight1, Bailey, and her brother and father. Talking with her dad gave me further insight into how much Flight1 built his daughter’s confidence after her battle with illness. Seeing her brother fly the simulator was just as rewarding and getting to witness his name getting put into the official Flight1 Logbook was an incredibly neat moment.

Flight1 does so much good for our community and their future is something I hope to be involved in both personally and professionally. They not only have the support of Lauren and I personally, but Nine13sports extends an offer to assist in any way we can. There are many great organizations in town, but I’ve never come across one that captures the mind, heart and experience of a participating child in the way Flight1 does.

From the wheels of Nine13sports to the wings of Flight1 – we’re finding better ways to make a difference here in Indianapolis.

– Tom Hanley

Indy Velo (dba Nine13sports) is a Central Indiana 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes health, wellness, and exercise for local youth between the ages of 8 and 18, using bicycling as the gateway. We have created a unique program in which we have integrated the traditional bicycle with technology to provide a turnkey product for youth programs, schools and other community organizations. In addition to individual betterment of health and fitness, our programs promote community, teamwork and mutual respect for one another. Our vision is to use the art and sport of bicycling to teach and positively influence our participants and leave a lasting impact. For additional information please visit or email