The Liberty Gazette
June 10, 2008
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Hope Flies! And so did almost a hundred airplanes, right in to the Liberty Municipal Airport Saturday, for the fly-in event to benefit the Neault family.
Baby Hope Neault is gaining weight (now weighing in at 6 lbs.) at Texas Children’s Hospital, but meanwhile, parents, Jamie and Catrina, have endured hardship while caring for their toddler, Cassidy, and making daily trips to the hospital to be with their one surviving twin baby, Hope.
The communities in Liberty County rallied round the idea of a fly-in benefit for the family. Liberty County Sheriff Greg Arthur and Liberty Fire Chief Fred Collins were the first to jump at the chance to be involved, offering assistance with cooking barbeque, and planning the event. KSHN’s Bill Buchanan wholly supported the event and news director, Tiffany York contributed many long hours to the success of the fly-in.
Cooking chicken were teams from the San Jacinto High Rollers, Liberty Fire Department, Kenefick Smokers, and the Devers Fire Department, using a large pit borrowed from Hardin Fire Department.
Prosperity Bank, First Liberty National Bank, Liberty-Dayton GM Auto World, BJ Ford, Liberty Dayton Chrysler, KSHN, Oilfield Welding & Fabrication, and Clawson’s Copy Shop were among the first to step up as sponsors, and Ken Wittekiend, Master Certified Flight Instructor was the first to offer an item for auction: two hours of tail wheel training in his Piper Super Cub.
Many donors and sponsors joined the ranks, and calls were coming in to KSHN radio with more offers of donations, and soon the list of “Thank-you’s” took up several poster boards along the fence. Sheriff Arthur and his assistant, Vita O’Reilly, were on hand long into Friday night helping to set up for the fly-in, and spent all day Saturday, tending to such details as running back to the store for more food, and emptying trash barrels.
Boy Scouts from the Liberty-Dayton area stood for several hours serving chicken, sausage, beans, potato salad, and fixin’s.
Auctioneer Glenda Shannon donated her time for a live auction and when the initial count was turned in, approximately $13,000 was raised from selling lunch plates and auction items. Donations continue to come in from people who were out of town and unable to make the event. Helen Green and B&J Vacuum had the top bid on an AKC-registered Labrador pup, donated by Brandy Miller, and Dayton-native Jed Keck sent in the high bid all the way from Seattle, to win the one hour aerobatic instruction donated by Harvey & Rihn Aviation of La Porte. Mr. Keck requested that the aerobatic ride be donated to a deserving youngster who wants to learn to fly but does not otherwise have the means.
Flown in were a fully restored 1947 Cessna 140 (tail dragger), a mint condition 50 year old 1958 Cessna 172, Two WW II Primary Trainer aircraft the PT-13 Stearman and a Fairchild PT-19 Cornell, a Bellanca Super Decathlon, Cessna 120, 1929 Pietenpol Air Camper, North American Navion, Kitfox, Avid Flyer, Steens Skybolt, a Life Flight helicopter, Piper Tomahawk, Beech Musketeer, a few Mooneys, Beech Bonanza, Bellanca Super Viking and several Vans RV kit-built aircraft which included Steve Johnson’s RV-6 as the first aircraft to arrive.
Steve Johnson conducted an organizational meeting of the newly forming Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) at Liberty prior to donning a bright orange vest and spending the day out in the sun directing aircraft to parking along with fellow EAA members Charlie Grabien, Chet Tims, Kaleb Brown, Linda Street-Ely and Mike Ely.
Airline pilot, Aileen Watkins and her friend, Vicki Croston along with Watkins’ infant daughter flew the last aircraft to depart Liberty. They flew Ms Croston’s Piper Warrior based out of Conroe TX, After reading about the Neault family on the event’s web page, Captain Watkins was moved to tears, saying, “How could I not come and support this!”