By Martie Thompson
Four seniors, all military veterans, from HarborChase of Mandarin recently went for rides in a World War II biplane, courtesy of the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, a nonprofit organization established and dedicated to seniors and veterans with a desire to “soar like an eagle.” Additional volunteers and sponsorship were provided by Sports Clips. The special event was held on April 15 at Herlong Airport in Jacksonville.
“We were honored and excited to help make dreams come true for some of our amazing residents,” said Lindsay Moberg, Director Life Enrichment at HarborChase of Mandarin. “Many of the family members cried tears of joy after watching their loved ones flying. It was a truly perfect and beautiful day without a cloud in the sky. Everyone agreed that it was an incredible and unforgettable experience for everyone involved.”
The volunteer pilots from Ageless Aviation Dreams provided HarborChase’s seniors with rides in a Boeing Stearman biplane, the same aircraft used to train many military aviators in the 1940s. The four seniors who participated in the event were Albert Bender, age 90; John Becker, age 93; Jim Register, age 83; and Dan Zeligson, age 89.
Becker said he needed some help getting into the cockpit of the biplane and Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation pilot Chris Culp was happy to oblige.
“I didn’t need help when I was 20,” Becker said.
According to Moberg, the idea for the special event was Becker’s. Late last year, he had seen a newspaper writeup about the foundation that provided these sentimental biplane rides to veterans at no charge. Moberg did some searching and found Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, which performs this service nationwide. The foundation notified Moberg shortly before they would be in Jacksonville and she had to do some scrambling to pull the event together by the April 15 date.
Becker, who was an Aviation cadet and trained on planes like this during World War II, but didn’t get the chance to become a full fledged pilot due to the ending of the war, said that he was fascinated watching the instrument panel and foot pedals during the 20-minute flight.
“We went up about 3,000 feet and saw wonderful views of the countryside,” he said.
Each senior received a signed cap and 8×10 photo from the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation to commemorate the occasion. Airplane rides are provided by the foundation to veterans at no charge.
“This was a highlight of my career that I will never forget,” said Moberg. “It was a real pleasure and a special moment that will stay in my heart forever. I just feel so blessed to be a part of this experience for our seniors.”
Moberg said HarborChase is home to many veterans who would enjoy this experience and she plans to make it an annual event.
With a mission of “Giving Back To Those That Have Given,” the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation is a non-profit organization established and dedicated to seniors and United States military veterans living in long-term care facilities that have always had a burning desire to soar like an eagle. Visit www.agelessaviationdreams.org for more information or to support its cause.
Photo courtesy Lindsey Moberg
Four military veteran seniors from HarborChase of Mandarin went for rides in a World War II biplane courtesy of Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation on April 15.