On September 21, I dropped by the Grace on Wings Family Aviation Festival and Hog Roast at the Indianapolis International Airport. Coming from the south end of the airport (which is mostly under construction and fenced off), I begin to wonder if I was lost – soon there were signs that guided me in. I found a hangar full of life and activity!
Bidders gather for the final moments of the silent auction.
The star attraction of the day seemed to be the Silent Auction. Tables and tables full of items up for grabs! Most of the hangar was filled with patrons of the hog roast – picnic tables with pulled pork and all the trim. The can’t miss vendor table near the entrance was packed with figurines of all sizes carved from olive wood grown in Bethlehem. Plus bouncy castles for the kids in the background let you know this truly was for the whole family.
The festival was to raise funds for Grace on Wings, the nation’s only charity air ambulance service. I spoke with Hal Blank, CEO and Chief Pilot, about this festival; with a turnout of over 1,100 over the course of the day, he was very pleased. "We always pray to at least break even. We’ve been doing this for seven years, and this event was one of our best! We served over 600 meals (at $10/adult, $5/child), plus the silent auction was huge. We also gave 71 free flights to kids as part of EAA Young Eagles program. But the largest success is always getting the word out about ourselves and telling about the opportunities we've had to be able to help families in need. In fact, many of our patients were there to celebrate with us Saturday!"
This little piggie was pretty much decimated by the crowd!
Grace on Wings was inspired by the need of two young Indianapolis girls who suffered from a genetic bone disorder that required regular visits to a Baltimore specialist -- more than 11 hours away by car. With the support of charitable funding, they provide transport to patients who are needing to go long distances for important treatment throughout the United States. Their two air ambulances, "Nellie" and "Abe", two customized Mitsubishi MU-2B Turboprops, were on hand outside the hangar for all to see. Both are equipped with oxygen, oxygen saturation monitors, portable ventilator, cardiac monitors, baby pods, defibrillators and more.
Blank shared the stories behind each aircraft’s name. "Nellie is named after Nell Wood, a missionary nurse who travelled the world. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, and they funded the original $10,000 seed money for Grace on Wings to purchase the aircraft, so it was named in her honor."
"Nellie" sitting outside the hanger for all to see.
"When Nellie needed to undergo routine maintenance, we needed to purchase a second aircraft since she was going to unable to make runs during that time. We went to Farmer’s Bank (who financed the purchase of Nellie) for additional funds, and they stepped up for us again. Since the registration of this one was 777LP, we took the LP to mean the "Lord’s Promise", so Abraham was the obvious choice. Abe served five families while Nellie was down."
How a patient would be transported in "Abe" .
Blank also explained that with the two different models come different advantages. "Nellie is a J-model, which sits lower to the ground. So loading is easier – we can use a 400-pound loading system with her. Abe, the 36A-model, is the best choice for long distance flights.
For more information on Grace on Wings and the services they provide, plus how you can participate, check them out here