After a brief hiatus, Above the Clouds’ signature Dream Flyers Program took flight on July 11th at Norwood Memorial Airport. For the last year, Above the Clouds has only been able to provide Dream Flyovers to hospitals, shelters and children’s residences. Now, the children have taken the “yoke”, determined their flight paths and experienced joy and hope from the Pilots’ seat. We have provided two Dream Flight Days and on July 11th, welcomed new Dream Pilot Tom Nery. Founders Gary and Martha Oberstein, Board Members, Ground Crew volunteers, “joy makers” and Dream Pilots were all smiles as Above the Clouds provided flights for youth referred to us from Lucy’s Love Bus, Wildflower, Afrimerica Academy, Boys and Girls Clubs, Lifeworks and the Jimmy Fund. Please see the July 11th Dream Flight Day video and amazing photos taken by ATC’s volunteer photographers and videographers. More to come!
Above the Clouds brings joy and hope through the wonder of flight. Our Dream Flyover, Dream Flyers, Cadet Flyers and Discovery Flyers programs are intended to to help youth through difficult times or even realize a passion for aviation. This has been one of the most challenging years in history, but at Above the Clouds we have been determined to continue bringing joy and hope to those that need it most.
November is the beginning of the season of giving but it’s always the season of giving at Above the Clouds! Listed below are three stories that inspired us this year and we hope will provide you with some feel-good news this holiday season. Thank you for your continued support of Above the Clouds during these unprecedented times.
- Families are Coming Together to Spread Extra Holiday Cheer in 2020 by Ringing a Bell Outdoors at the Same Time
- Labrador “Stumpy” is Britains Biggest Blood Donor
- Conjoined Twins Successfully Separated in Landmark Surgery that Took 24 Hours
Check out Tis the Season…Part 1 for more feel good new stories 🙂
Wednesday, August 19 was National Aviation Day. The power of flight is truly a magical thing. Yet, some scientific and technological marvels become so commonplace that we seldom take the time to re-examine their revolutionary impact with an open and inquisitive mind. In just a handful of generations, aviation went from pure, pie-in-the-sky speculation to a mundane reality that inspires about as much wonder as a trip aboard a Greyhound bus.
It’s that ho-hum attitude to the miracle of flight that makes National Aviation Day such an excellent national observation. Plus, it takes place on Orville Wright’s birthday! In order to celebrate National Aviation Day, here are a few high flying fun facts:
- Although it may seem like a lot of people are afraid to fly, aviophobia afflicts only about 6.5 percent of the population.
- Worldwide, only about 5 percent of the population has been on an airplane (we are doing everything we can with our programs to change that 🙂
- The first U.S. president to fly in an airplane was the adventurous Theodore Roosevelt, who flew in a Wright Flyer on October 11, 1910.
- The Wright Brothers got their mechanical training as owners of a bicycle shop.
- A Boeing 747 without engine power can glide about two miles for every 1,000 feet or so that the plane is above the ground.
- The Wright Brothers — with Orville at the helm and Wilbur making a final wing adjustment — completed the first sustained flight of a heavier-than-air aircraft on a spit of land four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December, 17, 1903
- Legend has it that Chinese Emperor Wang Mang ordered a soldier to strap two wings to his back. The soldier, covered in bird feathers, flew 100 meters in 1st Century AD
Every year we write a blog titled “Unity Through Community” in order to highlight amazing, local organizations that share our devotion to giving back to the community. You can find those blogs by clicking here. Since last year, Above the Clouds has had the pleasure of working with several other fantastic organizations making a difference that we wanted to let you know about.
The Italian Home– The Italian Home offers the building blocks for boys and girls to envision and strengthen their future. With state-of-the-art therapies and around-the-clock nurturing, our goal is to reintegrate the youth back into their schools, families, and communities by giving them the tools to cope. The continuum of programs at the Italian Home provide children with the opportunity to enter via one service with the possibility of being referred to and benefitting from many of the other programs offered. This continuity of care, integration of treatment approaches, and weaving of an array of mental health professionals is very beneficial to the overall improvement and health of the individual child. For more information please visit: https://www.italianhome.org/
House of Possibilities– HOPe was founded upon the belief that children with significant challenges are our heroes and teachers. We believe that they should be afforded unique experiences that their typical peers are able to access, such as opportunities to socialize and enjoy all that the world has to offer. Their hallmark program, Children’s Overnight Respite makes them the premier in-house respite facility in Massachusetts. Additionally, HOPe is unique in that it is the only multi-use respite facility of its kind located on and partnering with a college campus in the United States. From student volunteers to employment opportunities for their adult clients, their partnership with Stonehill College allows for endless possibilities to enrich the lives of our special families. For more information please visit: http://www.houseofpossibilities.org/
Big Sister Boston– Their mission is to ignite girls’ passion and power to succeed through positive mentoring relationships with women and enrichment programs that support girls’ healthy development. Ultimately, their vision is to create a mentor-rich community in which every girl has access to the individual nurturing, guidance, and support she needs to become a confident, competent and caring adult. For more information please visit: http://www.bigsister.org/
Home for Little Wanderers– H.L.W. provides a seamless continuum of vital programs and services for every stage of child and family development. For more than 200 years, they have earned a reputation for doing whatever it takes to strengthen vulnerable families and keep children safe in their own communities, even when they don’t have family support.Serving children and youth from birth to 22, The Home makes a positive impact on over 7,000 lives each year through a network of services including behavioral health, therapeutic residential and special education, adoption and foster care. In addition, a number of innovative programs provide specialized assistance to youth transitioning to adulthood from state systems of care. For more information please visit: http://www.thehome.org
The Covid-19 Pandemic has devastated many lives over the past few months, but there has been a great effort by many groups around the country to give aid to those in need. It is reassuring to know that during these times of struggle our community will come together because we realize that we are all in this together. Organizations like the ones featured above as well as many others really do make a difference and help make the world a better place.
June is Pride month, so we wanted to feature one of our volunteer LGBTQ+ pilots who allows ATC to continue bringing joy and hope to so many kids. Meet Matt! Thank you for all that you do.
1. How did you hear about ATC?
A few years back Mike and Tara D’Alessandro, who I’ve known since Cape Airlines circa 2005 reached out to me about Above the Clouds. I came to a Dream Flight Day and instantly was hooked. I really enjoyed the mission and the atmosphere instantly.
2. What do you love about flying?
I would have to say I like the freedom that comes with the profession. One mile of road can take you one mile in a car. One mile of pavement can take you anywhere that airplane can get to. For someone like myself who grew up very very modestly it’s been a privilege seeing the world on my airline (American Airlines group). The rush of taking off and being in command of a flying machine whether it be a piper warrior or a Boeing 767 that can take you anywhere on Earth is something that’s hard to describe. It’s unlike anything else.
3. How long have you been a pilot?
I have been a pilot since the fall of 2003 when I enrolled in the Bridgewater State College aviation program.
4. What made you want to become a pilot?
I have known and had the itch for aviation since I was about 4 years old. I was always walking around looking at the sky. For many of my fellow aviators their stories are similar.
5. As an LGBTQ+ pilot do you feel a sense of responsibility to impact your community?
I am a member of the NGPA (National Gay Pilots Association). I was very young during all the strife in the 80s and 90s for gay rights. (Born in 1985). This organization paved the way for helping LGBTQ+ pilots as a support system. Today it has grown to about 3000 members. Every year during Boston pride I run a float with an american eagle blow up airplane towed by my truck. Myself and other members of the NGPA as well as many of my straight friends march in Boston’s pride parade. It is important to me to convey that no matter who you love or want to marry that you can achieve your life long goals with hard work and dedication. This is how I personally connect with the community and show them they can be anything.
6. Is there another LGBTQ pilot you idolize?
When I first joined the NGPA one of the first people I met was Captain Jan Anderson. She is currently a Captain on the Boeing 777 at American Airlines. She was very kind and welcoming and put me at ease.
Right now I currently teach our new pilots how to fly the Embraer 145 jet on the Piedmont side of the American operation. For many, this is their first job as an airline pilot. To build professionalism I tell the captain candidates (prior experience who are about to be pilot in command of the aircraft after their training) to tell me what they think it takes to be a captain? What qualities do they possess and what should you try to emulate? You want someone who is calm, thorough and knowledgeable. Someone who is a leader but also approachable. Someone who can handle all the threats we face everyday while keeping our customers, crew and the aircraft safe during flight. Someone like Sully…or an old school Pan Am captain or better yet someone like Jan. These people do not crack under pressure. After knowing her the last few years, I can tell by her demeanor she encompasses all the things I mentioned above. I haven’t flown with her yet but once this economic slowdown is over that is one of my goals. I look up to Jan for many reasons and these are just a few of them. She has served as Vice President of the NGPA and set a great example for all of us to follow.
7. What would you say to a young person who wants to become a pilot?
I would first congratulate them on their desire to join such a unique community. Explain to them that it is a long road but the juice is worth the squeeze. The ability to fly is something sacred and special to aviators. It’s a tight knit community and everyone is welcome to join if they have the passion. The world is at their fingertips
8. How do you think ATC is changing lives?
All you have to do is go by the faces of these kids after they’ve gone flying. Some come for one day. Others decide to pursue flying lessons afterward with our guidance. Many of these kids have never seen an airplane up close. It is amazing to just for one day be able to remove these kids from their difficult situation and make them feel loved, appreciated and free.
It also helps the volunteers. My brothers and I had a challenging upbringing in some ways and I had some of the best role models who weren’t in my immediate family to help me. David Willey, my mentor, my grandma, my god mother, and my uncle. These people went above and beyond for me and my brothers. Above the Clouds gives me a chance to pay it forward. If we can change the trajectory of just one child’s negative path it’s a success. To serve this organization has been one of the greatest honors of my life.
9. Describe ATC in one word
Since Mother’s Day is celebrated this month, we wanted to feature the Dream Flight Day experience of one of the mother’s of a past Dream Flyer. Elyse accompanied her daughter, Samantha, last June for her Dream Flight Day. This was Elyse’s experience.
- Describe your Dream Flight Day experience with your child
Our Dream Flight Day was incredible, from the preplanning to the arrival to the preflight planning to the actual flight to the after snack and gift giving! Before we came, the Coordinator told us to call 5 minutes out so that they could be sure to be waiting outside for us. When we arrived, there were 3 people there to greet us with great big signs for Samantha. That made Samantha feel that she was a Superstar for the Day. Our Pilot Bill and our Flight Attendant Josh were incredibly patient and kind. Samantha flew to Scituate then over to Foxboro for a bird’s eye view of Gillette Stadium. She loved taking the wheel for about 8 minutes or so. We got some amazing photos both on the tarmac and in the air.
2. What is something you would say to another mother who hasn’t been to a Dream Flight Day yet with their child?
I would tell any mother that this is a once-in a-lifetime experience for their child that they really should take advantage of. It gives the child a feeling of being special and doing something most other kids their age have never done. It is a thrill and a half. As parents, we were so proud of the way our daughter handled herself. The pilot was very patient and took her lead in terms of how fast to instruct and to fly.
3. What does being a mother mean to you?
Being a mother means giving my child as much exposure as I possibly can to the real world, even with her neurodiverse mind. Since I have enrolled her in so many different offerings over the years, she has made great progress and I believe that all children with special needs can be challenged to meet their full potential, whatever that is for that individual. As her mother, I have been so pleasantly surprised to see all that she actually can do, when I give her the opportunity to do so. My goal is to provide whatever I can in order to help her become her best possible self.
4. How do you think ATC is bringing joy and hope to kids?
I think ATC brings joy and hope by affording these kids the awesome experience that is their own personal Dream Flight. I have heard of many other families being so grateful to the organization. The program is most hopeful and brings much joy to many people along the way.
Above the Clouds invites you to celebrate National Poetry month! As we await clearance to take to the skies, lets get creative in using poetry to share ATC’s special brand of joy and hope! Throughout the month of April, we welcome your stories, poems, and messages of hope in text, art, video, music, and, of course, rap. Below is one of our favorite poems titled “In the Air” from an ATC Dream Flyer. Nick flew with us in 2013 and is currently a computer science major at Westfield State.
“In the air, I am free. In the air, there is much more to see.
On the ground, I am bound. As I look up, people look down.
Dream Flight. Is it the dream of flight, or the flight of a dream?
From where I sat, the sky appeared gray and foreboding.
Perhaps my freedom should be postponed for another day?
The sky, like life, is not always what is seems;
We pushed on through the clouds and greeted the sun’s shining beams.
Mind racing, hands trembling, I traded wheels for wings.
Bumping, jerking, vibrating disappeared with the gentle pressure of
overcoming Earth’s gravity.
The racing of the engine echoed the racing of my heart, both straining to escape
The barriers, the challenges, the ridicule, the pain melted away as the journey
All the stairs, all the difficulty, it would disappear.
The controls in hand, I became the master of my movements, the ruler of my
rambling. Apprehension turned to delight, and then to serenity as we sliced
through clouds and pierced sunbeams.
In the air, I can see the world
On the ground, I can only see my town.
In the air, I can go anywhere.
On the ground, I can’t go there.
In the air, there’s not a care.
On the ground, there’s no one around.
In the air, I am free.
In the air, I am ME”
Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week is a global aviation awareness week for girls of all ages observed to mark the anniversary of the world’s first female pilot license (March 8, 1910). The week is a call to address gender imbalance in the air and space industry. Therefore, in honor of this, we wanted to highlight a female pilot who year after year does so much to support Above the Clouds. Thank you for all that you do and for being an inspiration to so many young females.
Heard about ATC when the Ninety-Nines Women Pilots had a meeting at Norwood Airport on the same day as ATC. All 15 of us women pilots met ATC folk. Great way to meet!
Seeing the world from a beautiful perspective; sense of adventure, freedom and accomplishment – always learning.
Seeking a new view on the world when my daughters went off to college, I took an introductory flight and I was hooked. I soon joined my love of photography with my passion for flight and became an aerial photographer.
It’s making a difference as more women rise in the ranks, the old stereotype (she’s a women, can’t fly etc) is fading and being replaced with respect and cooperation.
Amelia Earhart – Founder of the Ninety-Nines and many 99s who are alive today!
Offering flights to kids who are challenged on so many levels, making a day especially for them, learning about flying, taking the controls of a plane – this opportunity can open eyes & raise spirits. They too could do something they never thought possible. This can have a huge influence on young lives. Going home with this experience of flight and the gifts from ATC will forever be a reminder of what’s possible.
Please visit my website www.margotcheel.com for my bio and more info on my books and photos.
- Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Connecticut. However, I have also lived in Nevada and now Massachusetts.
- How did you hear about ATC?
I learned about Above the Clouds through a mutual friend. I was on a trip in Florida and began discussing where I was from, my work and other interests. After bringing up my passion for volunteerism, my friend mentioned the wonderful work that was being done right in my own back yard. I emailed Martha and Gary the next day to see how I could become involved.
- What is something most people don’t know about you?
Before realizing that a career as a pilot was an achievable goal, I wanted to be a sports broadcaster for ESPN. To this day I am a passionate sports fan and enjoy playing golf and skiing.
- What do you love about flying?
Flying offers a sensation of freedom that you can’t get anywhere else. No matter how many times I take off, the ability to look out the window and see the world move by from above brings me absolute joy.
- How long have you been a pilot?
I began taking flying lessons in 2012 as a freshman in college. I have been flying professionally since 2014 and am excited for the long career ahead. (Only 40 short years until retirement)
- What made you want to become a pilot?
I have always loved airplanes, trucks, trains, really anything with a loud engine that moved. In high school, while researching career options, I came to the realization that this love really hadn’t faded. Embarrassing at the time? Yes. However I soon realized that I was only a few short years away from turning this passion into a career. I have been enjoying the ride ever since.
- How do you think ATC is changing lives?
With so much negativity in the world today, it is refreshing to see how a small group of people can come together to create so much joy. I could never have anticipated the amount of love that ATC and its volunteers provide to those in need. I have seen first hand how a smile and simple conversation can turn a child’s day into one that he or she will never forget.
- Is there something I haven’t asked you that you would like to say about ATC?
I am passionate about aviation and helping others. However, I truly did not understand the impact that the work ATC would have on the children. ATC is made up of an incredible group of leaders, mentors and volunteers and I am excited to be a part of it.
- Describe ATC in one word