Cincinnati-based nonprofit Impact Player Partners (IPP) is reaching out to business aviation for travel help at its seventh annual Impact A Hero weekend June 4-6 in Sugarland, Texas, as part of its efforts to help provide emotional and financial support for severely wounded and disabled veterans.
Business aviation is valuable in helping facilitate travel to Impact a Hero Weekend for some of the most severely wounded veterans, IPP Chairman Jim Hoelker says. “With the metal prosthetics, the shrapnel in their body, it is tough to get them through the airport in a dignified way,” he notes. “They have to remove their prosthetic. They have to be searched, even though they’ve got a government ID on them. It is tough.”
Universal Weather & Aviation has donated the use of its business aircraft in the last three years and helped wounded veterans attend the Impact a Hero Weekend who otherwise would not have been able to come, says Hoelker. “We’re hoping more in the business aviation industry will step up and help bring dignity to even more of our severely wounded veterans who have sacrificed so much.”
A number of these wounded veterans would have no other means of traveling to and from Houston for the event, says Ralph Vasami, CEO of Universal. “The private use of the plane and the convenience that it affords really helps enable that process, and they [the veterans] appreciate it very much because otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to attend.”
But Vasami notes that Universal has not been able to accommodate all of the wounded soldiers. “Some of them have had to stay back home for lack of volunteer aircraft,” he says. “The more help we can get from the business aviation community equates to more of our veterans being able to participate in events, like Impact A Hero Weekend, which boost their morale and make them feel whole once again. It’s also a great way for our industry to show our veterans we support their efforts and appreciate what they do.”
Chris Harley, who serves as the volunteer flight coordinator for Universal, says IPP needs aircraft with a minimum capacity of three to five passengers. “Most of the wounded veterans attend with their families, who often are caregivers, so it’s important that we have enough room for them to travel quickly and comfortably,” he says. “The most important thing is that travel is quick. The benefit of using the business aircraft is that the process is fast. We don’t want the process of getting on the flight to take longer than the flight itself.”
Once IPP has identified a need, it maintains a contact list of volunteers and matches them up geographically by who is available to help out, says Harley. “So for example, if there is a wounded veteran based in New York in need of transportation to Impact a Hero Weekend, we will reach out to volunteer aircraft in the New York area to coordinate the trip,” he says. “The more volunteer aircraft we receive, the more wounded veterans will be able to attend the event, which is continuing to grow.”
For more information, or to volunteer your aircraft, go to http://www.impactahero.aero/.