Kids learn to soar to new heights through Challenge AirBY CHUCK TUCK | JOURNAL REPORTER Several weeks ago the Lake Stevens Kiwanis participated in the first ever Challenge Air for Kids program at Paine Field.
Challenge Air provides an experience of a lifetime for disabled children and their friends. They give the children an opportunity to experience flying in the clouds while motivating and inspiring them to overcome obstacles and challenges.
The Lake Stevens Kiwanis President Dave Minch said discounted pizzas were purchased from Alfy’s for the event.
“Alfy’s basically donated the pizzas at cost, and we purchased them. We served 90 pizzas to 350 people is what we calculated,” Minch said.
“This year was a great community service project for us; as you know, the Kiwanis focuses on servicing children around the world, that’s our theme,” he said. “To be able to provide community service to 135 handicapped and some severely handicapped to be able to go on this Challenge Air trip was such a wonderful service opportunity for us.”
“It was absolutely a special event… and truly heartwarming to see those kids.”
Supported by volunteers and independent and corporate donations, the program was introduced by founder Rick Amber in 1993.
Amber was a fighter pilot and training officer in the U.S. Navy from 1967 to 1971.
When Amber was only 26 years old, he was returning from his 109th combat mission over Vietnam when his jet crashed because of a failed landing system on the aircraft carrier USS Hancock.
Although the loss of the use of both his legs in the accident was crippling, Amber knew he had to continue doing something within the aviation field.
After completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Amber was approached to develop an aviation curriculum which sparked his love of flight once more.
Now in its 15th year of Challenge Air, Amber’s legacy and dreams continue to help children who are placed in difficult positions, see that the possibilities for them is unlimited.