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Flying for good: Awards honor volunteers, motivatorsFlying for good: Awards honor volunteers, motivators

Rally Ga Volunteers and organizations that take patients to medical care, transport athletes to the Special Olympics, and motivate students to succeed will receive the 2011 National Public Benefit Flying Awards from the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) and Air Care Alliance.

The awards honor volunteers and organizations involved in using flying to help others. This year’s awards recognize efforts at Angel Flight Central, Wings of Hope, Wright Flight Inc., and Cessna Aircraft Co.

“I am very proud of the recipients of the 2011 Public Benefit Flying Awards,” NAA President and CEO Jonathan Gaffney said in a news release. “All of the nominations were worthy, but the list of our honorees demonstrates again the diversity of public benefit flying in America and the many different people who benefit from it.”

The Champion of Public Benefit Flying award goes to the 2010 Cessna Citation Special Olympics Airlift, a coordinated effort by hundreds of volunteers to transport athletes and coaches from around the country to the Special Olympics USA National Games in July. NAA said the airlift capped a two-year planning effort led by Cessna and involved more than 200 employee volunteers, along with 160 volunteer Citation business jets. AOPA participated in the airlift, using its Citation to transport athletes to the games.

The Outstanding Achievement in Public Benefit Flying award recognizes Wright Flight Inc. Executive Director Bruce Robin Stoddard, who uses aviation to motivate students to achieve personal and educational goals. Students enrolled in the Wright Flight program sign contracts to achieve a goal, pass an aviation history course, and remain drug and alcohol free. The program rewards students with experiences such as a tour of an aviation facility or a flight in a light aircraft, according to the website.

The awards to individuals went to three volunteers involved in helping people in times of crisis and those in need of medical care. Lewis Young, a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight Central who will receive the Distinguished Volunteer Pilot award, has provided more than 700 flights for the organization since 2001, NAA said. Dick Gooch, also of Angel Flight Central, received a Distinguished Volunteer award for his longtime work as “a volunteer staff member, outreach ambassador, board member, and advocate for patients, pilots and staff.” Wings of Hope Chairman Larry A. Lemke also received a Distinguished Volunteer award for his organization’s worldwide humanitarian efforts. “Mr. Lemke has flown more than 1,100 U.S. flights and worked more than 7,000 hours in charitable efforts providing advanced health care to impoverished people,” the press release notes.

“Each year thousands of volunteers in aviation quietly work to fly patients for care, provide educational flights for youth, support environmental causes, serve in times of emergencies, help our veterans, and provide help in many other ways to those in need,” Air Care Alliance Chairman Rol Murrow said. “Along with NAA, we are pleased to be able to work with leaders in our Nation’s capital to honor these selfless individuals, their groups, and those who provide essential support for them.”

The awards will be presented Sept. 15 in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. AOPA participated in the selection committee.

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