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Eyes on the prize

Pilots deliver donated goggles to health care professionals

While most of the population has been focused on obtaining masks to cover our mouths and noses, there has been noticeably less emphasis placed on protecting another important part of the face from germs amid the coronavirus pandemic—the eyes.

Tyson Brummett (left) and Nick Henderson-Williams deliver donated ski and snowboard goggles from Utah to California. Photography courtesy of Tyson Brummett and Nick Henderson-Williams.

Two pilots, Tyson Brummett and Nick Henderson-Williams, recently got involved in Goggles for Docs, a nonprofit created by Jon Schaefer to help health care workers who are struggling to find traditional eye protection. The grassroots effort collects donated ski or snowboard goggles for health care workers as they treat COVID-19 patients across the country.

Brummett and Henderson-Williams volunteered to fly the latest mission to deliver 270 pairs of goggles from Salt Lake City International Airport to California’s Santa Monica Municipal Airport on April 29 following a recent donation collected at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah.

Brummett, a former professional baseball player turned pilot and CFI, along with his friend and fellow flight instructor Henderson-Williams, flew the goggles to California, where they were met by a Goggles for Docs volunteer who collected and delivered the goggles to nearby hospitals and medical facilities.

Clear blue skies are a treat on this flight to deliver goggles for health care workers.

“I decided to get involved with Goggles for Docs because my sister is a nurse here in Utah and she expressed the huge need” for personal protective equipment (PPE), Brummett said. “My buddy Nick works at the [Salt Lake City] Cirrus Training Center and with help from the owner who is very charitable secured us an airplane to help deliver the goggles.”

Henderson-Williams also has ties to the medical community and used his connections in aviation to make the donation possible. “My girlfriend is a nurse here in Utah and I’ve heard firsthand about the shortage of PPE amongst her colleagues and friends,” he said. “I was eager to help and luckily work for a generous company that wanted to help, too.

“As a Cirrus training center instructor at Elevate Aviation, they kindly offered us use of their SR22T, in partnership with GP-Seven LLC, to help in any way they could and Goggles for Docs was the perfect fit,” said Henderson-Williams.

Since its inception at the end of March, Goggles for Docs has donated more than 38,000 goggles through crowdsourcing. Goggles are collected at 200 donation drop-off locations across the country.

Overwhelming feedback from medical community

Several health professionals from around the country shared their tremendous support for the effort. “It feels like saintly pen pals when boxes arrive from all over the country with words of encouragement,” said Dr. Marcia Glass, an associate professor of Internal Medicine and program director for the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Star power

Following the announcement of the creation of Goggles for Docs, Schaefer’s inbox was flooded with messages offering to help. Initial emails came in from Trevor Crist and Gregg Blanchard of the Vermont-based travel and booking company Inntopia, and Victor Waryas, an avid mountain sports enthusiast who works in the music industry. Others hopped on board, including Berkshire East marketer Gabe Porter-Henry, Adam Gardner from the environmental nonprofit group Reverb, and music and event veteran Poli Nightingale.

“The Director of our Foundation and Volunteer Services said goggles are the hottest commodity besides the N95 masks,” wrote Molly Tilleson, an employee at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. “She said they will be immediately passed to our ICU and ER Docs and Nurses. You are truly an angel in disguise.”

Within hours, the Inntopia team launched a website. The platform helps organize incoming requests from medical centers, vet the requests to ensure that donated goggles end up directly in the hands of those who need them the most, and enable volunteers to donate and fulfill requests in real time.

Mikaela Shiffrin, an American two-time Olympic gold medalist alpine skier, caught wind of the operation and posted about the campaign on her social media. Following her post, 1,600 goggles shipped to seven states, and a strong group of dedicated volunteers was formed.

Requests from dozens of new medical centers are assessed daily by dedicated Goggles for Docs volunteers from all 50 states, Canada, and Europe. Volunteers from the United States, Australia, Argentina, and the United Kingdom have mobilized their own regional teams as the need for consumer and industry participation to collect more goggles continues to grow.

Brummett believes it took more than just one person to make the delivery of PPE possible. “It's amazing the places aviation can take us and the impact we can have when we help others. Special thanks to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Teams, Elevate Aviation, [Goggles for Docs], and the many front-line workers helping us get through COVID-19.”

Henderson-Williams summarized his thoughts on the volunteer mission and the impact aviation can have on the global pandemic: “Aviation has helped me find a career that I love and I’m really fortunate it has allowed me the ability to help in a time of need.”

Donated ski or snowboard goggles are weighed before being loaded in a Cirrus SR22T to be flown from Utah to California.
Jennifer Non

Jennifer Non

Senior Manager of Media Relations and Public Affairs
AOPA Senior Manager of Media Relations and Public Affairs, Jennifer Non joined AOPA in 2017. A former traffic reporter turned media relations specialist, and native Washingtonian, she enjoys traveling and is working toward her private pilot certificate. She was recently honored by Ragan Communications and PR Daily with a Top Women in Communications Award, in the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Champion category and is also a member of the Board of Nominations for the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Topics: Public Benefit Flying, COVID19

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