We arrived signed in, weighed in, Nicky got a good bag complete with a cool Challenge Kids t-shirt and we went to our orientation. I learned that some 18 or so pilots has come there to donate their time and planes to take the kids for rides! No small deal considering the cost of jet fuel these days. Forty or so minutes later we met our pilot and saw the plane we would be flying. The pilot George Jerome was very nice and when I asked him "How did he get involved" he said that his daughter is very active in the community and she had asked him to do it. He went on to say it seemed like a great idea and he was happy to volunteer. Next thing I knew we were getting on the the plane and a very surprised Nicholas was being strapped into the co-pilot seat, instead of being herded into the backseat. He WAS SO EXCITED - and so was I. The weather was warm, the sky was clear and it was a perfect day. Up we went with Nicky looking like he was going to burst with joy as we kept reaching his neck to look down and around as the plane went higher and higher! When we began to level off the pilot said "Nicky do you want to drive?". Nicky who is not super verbal said "YES" and he took the Yoke. This is when my joy mixed with a little nausea as Nicky bounced the plane around. But it was still all good Nicky was happy, the pilot was happy and we were having an experience of a lifetime.
When we got of the plane we entered an open area where volunteers (many of which were folks from Washington Mutual) were helping kids get into different types of simulated aircrafts that made noises and bounced around, while excited parents took pictures. There were vendors with free food - including Nicky's favorite "In n Out" handing out lunches. Nicky had a snow cone, burger, chips and soda all provided for free to everyone and then we went to a craft area where Nicky painted a little airplane as a souvenir of the day - which almost made me cry. Why? Because usually Nicky is not thrilled to paint or do a craft. On this day not only was he very happy to do the craft but he wouldn't even let me touch his paint brush. He was clear that this was going to be his project, he knew just how he wanted his plane and he was determined to do it himself. Proof positive that he had been wonderfully impacted by this special day.
This was an amazing opportunity and the atmosphere was filled with love and excitement. Please look up this group and see if they are going to be in your area if this is something you and your family might enjoy. For me I am always looking for things that Nicky and my Daughter can do and both have fun and as she gets older they are few and far between - this was one of those days that she could have fun too. Here's their link...www.challengeair.org
Notes to Myself and others
* Try to find new things to do that can expand on the activities he loved! I know I'll be visiting the airports more and maybe even getting him some toy airplanes, airplanes to paint, books about airplans...we'll see what he likes.