Nothing less than the “amazing generosity” of new and renewing members of the AOPA Foundation’s Hat in the Ring Society powered it to a record-breaking 2015, and capped off the year by surpassing a $200,000 matching grant challenge offered by two longtime aviation supporters.
“There’s no better way to show your support for general aviation than to become a Hat in the Ring member,” said Justin Biassou, manager of donor relations at the AOPA Foundation. “Thanks to everyone who threw their hat-in-the-ring,” he said.
During 2015, the Hat in the Ring Society, which is the AOPA Foundation’s longest-running philanthropic giving circle, raised $996,000 for vital flight safety programs while new participants swelled the society’s ranks to more than 850 members.
Between August and December, new and renewing members rose to the challenge to raise $200,000 to be matched dollar-for-dollar by Michael Baldwin and the Tom Davis Fund—and then exceeded the goal, raising more than $280,000 in tax-deductible donations by the time the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1.
“These are numbers that the Hat in the Ring Society has never before seen, and it shows the power of what we pilots can do when we pull together,” said George Perry, the AOPA Foundation’s interim director, senior vice president of the Air Safety Institute, and a Hat in the Ring Society member.
“We have some great programs that are really making a difference and improving GA. Whether it’s safety, Rusty Pilots, flying clubs, the regional fly-ins, or our new high school initiative, the AOPA Foundation is helping change lives and save lives every day,” he said.
Society members share a passion for “flying, safety, and helping people become and remain pilots,” and they can be proud to have made possible the achievements that advance the goal of safer flying and making aviation more accessible to the public, Perry said.
Thanks to the Hat in the Ring Society’s generous donors, the Air Safety Institute’s safety education materials were viewed nearly two million times, and more than 30,000 pilots benefitted from in-person safety courses—all free of charge.
The Hat in the Ring Society’s energetic efforts “helped AOPA bring Regional Fly-ins to nearly 30,000 people, taking the fun of a grassroots aviation gathering back to pilots and letting aviation enthusiast rediscover what makes aviation so special,” the foundation said in a communication to society members.
Throughout a year that was one of GA’s safest years on record, Hat in the Ring Society members knocked down barriers to flying by helping to fund AOPA’s Rusty Pilots programs that brought more than 1,000 dormant pilots back to flying.
Society members’ support made possible flight training scholarships that enable America’s youth to pursue their aviation dreams. And AOPA’s Flying Club Network helped make flying more affordable for anyone with an interest in aviation.
“Together, Hat in the Ring Society members made a difference, and strengthened general aviation in 2015,” Perry said. “Wherever we fly in the year ahead, we’ll visit airports and communities and meet fellow pilots that we’ve touched through our support of the AOPA Foundation.
“We are excited about 2016 and continuing the positive momentum that many of our programs now have achieved. Thanks again to everyone who counts themselves as one of our supporters!”