Oftentimes, when a family arrives for their flight simulator or airplane flight experience, they look like any other family that you might know. There is no obvious health issue. No one appears to be struggling with a physical challenge of any kind. The kids, especially, are so excited and present in the moment, you would never guess that anyone they know has been impacted by serious illness.
Of course, we try to make the Flight1 program as empowering as possible for our families, so we almost never hear the children themselves talk about what they have struggled with. On the other hand, I often find myself standing off to the side with the parents, and we begin chatting about what life is like.
“We had a difficult fight in the car. He’s really angry about what happened to his dad.”
“She hasn’t been able to be around any kids her age because of her immune system deficiency. She literally doesn’t have a single friend.”
“He has had such a dull summer, sitting in doctor office waiting rooms while we go to all his brother’s appointments. I can’t tell you how much he has looked forward to flying today!”
Sometimes the mothers cry as they talk to me. Sometimes the fathers cry, too. I often leave our programming nights wishing I could do so much more for the families that are counting on Flight1 to help build their children’s confidence. Still, I am always, always, always grateful that we were able to give them a sense of accomplishment, and something to look forward to in the future.
Flight1 isn’t going to solve difficult life situations for the families that participate, but seeing a child forget about all of their challenges as they determinedly take the yoke and come in for a landing means so much to the kids and their parents. I believe that has the power to change lives!