The Liberty Gazette
June 14, 2011Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: One week to go to the start of the 2011 Air Race Classic. A recent email sent by ARC officials included the reminder of our responsibility as ambassadors.
This year the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama has created an impressive program to broaden horizons of children served by the Clubs. Adopt-a-Pilot will match youngsters with pilots; the goal being to encourage them to think large, and never think anything is unreachable because of economic or family circumstances. Most of these children haven’t been exposed to aviation. Inger Anderson, Director of Operations of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama, is the coordinator of this program. She and other Club leaders began last year planning monthly outings for their youth members. Pilots met the children at the airport and beyond the activities was encouragement to follow their dreams. The Adopt-a-Pilot program culminates at the end of this year’s Air Race Classic, which will terminate in Mobile. Fifty teams are competing this year, and each is assigned two children from the Boys & Girls Clubs. We’ve been given their names, ages and Club email addresses and have begun conversations with them. We were told this is the first time that a majority of them have even heard of e-mail. When the race ends, they will be at the finish line, and we will all get to celebrate together.
Mike: The other racing group we’re in, the Sport Air Racing League, recently completed the fifth race in this 20-race season, in Carbondale, Illinois. Race Director Sam Hoskins named his race “The Big Muddy Air Race.” Sam posted a comment on our group page that he received from his friend Mark Pearson, a staff psychologist at a state juvenile facility. The facility is located right off the end of Carbondale’s Runway 24, the departure runway they used for the race. Mark wrote, “I was running a group when your planes flew over my institution. I used it as an opportunity to talk about goal setting, path planning and opportunity in this country. Congrats!” Mark’s big congratulations wasn’t just for Sam’s second-place finish, it was also a recognition of people who as a group are generally willing to share their passion to encourage others.
Mark later told us that his discussion with the teens essentially led to Sam being such a "get it done" kind of guy. Mark noted when he was at an age often tempted into delinquency he had already planned on being a dozen or so different things. He said, “I only became a psychologist because I failed the vision tests to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.” So he was stunned that the typical delinquent either had one totally unrealistic "plan" for his future ("I'm gonna play in the NBA" or "I'm a rapper") or swore they had never given a thought to goal setting, let alone path planning. Using Sam and our racing group as examples, Mark encouraged the youth to do things; set a goal, create a plan and execute the plan, whether that is learn to fly, build a plane, organize a race, or something else.
Linda: Whether in southern Alabama, or flying over a delinquent youth camp in Illinois, or in our own neighborhood, we have opportunities to do good, sometimes without knowing who we may be influencing. As Sam said, “You just never know who's watching.”