Standing up for a cause has given Appleton, Wisconsin, teacher Eric Vander Loop and his pupils a dose of celebrity: Together they have raised more than $120,000 and counting to fight cancer, and with that accolades from People magazine, and organizations including Major League Baseball.
On July 31, they had a chance to rub elbows with some fellow celebrities and get a behind-the-scenes tour of EAA AirVenture, courtesy of Piper Aircraft, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and AOPA.
Vander Loop launched the fundraising effort when a colleague’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, and turned it into an opportunity to teach his fifth-grade students a lesson about kindness. Drawing from a line in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”), Vander Loop dubbed the effort “Unless…” and the kids got cracking. That first group of fifth-graders are now high school juniors, and their collective efforts continue to win praise and recognition. Vander Loop was among 30 teachers singled out (so to speak) for special recognition during this year’s MLB All-Star Game.
On July 31, Piper covered their AirVenture and bought lunch, EAA supplied the backstage access, and AOPA enrolled the kids—who range from elementary to high school ages—in the AV8RS program, along with a photo opportunity with National Aviation Hall of Fame inductee Patty Wagstaff (who is also an AOPA ambassador).
“Piper has been very active for a number of years in raising funds to fight cancer, and nearly everyone has been or will be touched in some way by this disease,” said Piper Senior Manager of Marketing Rorie Ainbinder. “So when this opportunity came along to give back to an exceptional teacher and a group of special kids, we jumped on it with EAA and AOPA.”