Vets to Take Special Flight Around Point Area
Photo: Darryl Fisher, president of the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, standing with Emeritus at Oakridge resident William Geiger. Geirger, 99, took the flight last year and will participate again this year. (Courtesy of Emeritus at Oakridge)
By Scott McCaskey, Special to the City-Times
The thrill of flight and the feeling of giving back: both emotions will be shared in the cockpit as nine seniors and veterans take to the skies over Stevens Point, Wisconsin the morning of May 20.
Several residents at Emeritus at Oakridge Senior Living community will be joined by other local seniors and veterans. They will fly one at a time from Stevens Point Municipal Airport on a 20-minute tour over the countryside in a Boeing Stearman biplane. The classic aircraft will be piloted by Darryl Fisher, president of the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, a non-profit organization established and dedicated to honoring seniors and United States military veterans. Their primary focus is serving individuals living in long-term care communities to fulfill their dream of flying, Fisher says.
Two World War II veterans from Emeritus at Oakridge, along with two other residents and local veterans will be among passengers taking to the skies. Katie Konig, 92, a World War II veteran and long-time Oakridge resident, will again be among the passengers. The biplane is the same aircraft used to train many military aviators in the late 1930s and early ‘40s. This marks the third time Ageless Aviation Dreams has come to Stevens Point.
“Being up with Darryl is like being in heaven,” Konig said. “It’s a piece of life that I miss from a runway we owned in northern Wisconsin. It also makes me recall how I use to hand-sew the wings for the airplanes during the war. I can relive some of those memories when I fly with Darryl.”
Flights begin at about 9:30 a.m. at Stevens Point Municipal Airport, which is providing runway access and flight coordination. There will be about nine flights with a duration of approximately 40 minutes each, including loading, flight and landing. The media and public are welcome to come out and observe. The event will include several generations as pupils from Bannach Elementary School in Stevens Point will come out to watch the flights, as well as observe the many model airplanes on display at the airport. Many of the models were made by Allan “PeeWee” Sommers, a very active local aviator who has built and displayed hundreds of model airplanes throughout the region. He will speak with pupils about the history of flight.
“Providing an inter-generational and historic learning experience enhances the value of appreciation for our veterans and also gives our youth an exciting look at the magic of flight,” said Marcia McDonald, executive director at Emeritus at Oakridge.”
The flight service is free and supported through the Foundation, with a wide range of companies and individuals lending financial assistance.
“It is such an honor to be part of Ageless Aviation Dreams,” Fisher said. “Providing these amazing experiences has allowed us to make such a difference in the lives of so many people. We’ve been able to give back to seniors and veterans, two very important groups of our society who often go unnoticed and who have given so much and made such a difference for us all. Our goal is to honor these important people. Coming to Emeritus at Oakridge is one of our favorite flight locations. The Emeritus at Oakridge team is so devoted to their seniors.”
“Dream Flights captures the spirit of flight and how it travels beyond the bounds of generations,” says Jason Draheim, Airport Operator.
The event will kick off with the Aviator Dinner at 5:30 p.m. May 19 at the Holiday Inn Stevens Point. Local dignitaries, Emeritus at Oakridge residents, local veterans and Stevens Point residents will be in attendance.
McDonald said everyone is looking forward to an exciting two days.
“One of the great joys in working in senior care is seeing people maintain a sense of purpose and meaning in life,” McDonald said. “We’ve been making dreams happen with the assistance of Mr. Fisher and his Dream Team. Here at the community we maintain a strong devotion to make a difference in residents’ lives every day and the Dream Flights are a great example of our commitment.”