We are an aviation nonprofit delivering humanitarian programs around the globe to lift people in need toward health and self-sufficiency.
We envision a world in which all people have access to the resources they need to create a better life.
We work in Africa, Asia and the Americas, partnering with the world’s poorest communities to improve their:
● HEALTH ● EDUCATION
● ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY ● FOOD SECURITY
U.S. Medical Air Transport
In 2003. we established our Medical Relief & Air Transport (MAT) Program to transport seriously ill individuals to lifesaving care at the country’s best medical facilities. The U.S. is home to the world’s best doctors, but many families have no way to access these specialists when medical crises strike. The The MAT Program is the only FREE medical air transport service in the country with airplanes that are specially equipped to accommodate stretchers and medical equipment.
Wings of Hope has been using its wings to help those in need since 1962.
Where There are Wings, There is Hope
Here are the most recent three stories, click here to see all Articles & Stories.
Wings of Hope Receives ISTAT Grant
Humanitarian grant to support work in Papua New Guinea
ST. LOUIS, MO (November 03, 2016) — The International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) Foundation awarded Wings of Hope an $8,000 grant to support medevac services at one of the organization’s newest field bases: Papua New Guinea. This is the second grant Wings of Hope has received from the ISTAT Foundation. In 2015, the foundation awarded the aviation nonprofit a $10,000 grant to support its work providing emergency medical flights in Nicaragua.
“We are very grateful to the ISTAT Foundation for its continued support of our efforts to use aviation for the greater good,” said Wings of Hope Board Chair Steve Akre. “In a place like Papua New Guinea – where people are literally cut off from health care resources – having access to a plane to fly people to emergency medical care is often the difference between life and death.”
Wings of Hope is one of 14 humanitarian organizations that received a total of $150,000 from the ISTAT Foundation in 2016.
“I am delighted that the ISTAT Foundation has been able to support 14 separate organizations, all of whom use the immense power of aviation to improve the lives of those people around the world who suffer as a result of natural disasters, poverty, lack of medical care or disability” said Julian Balaam, ISTAT Foundation Trustee and Humanitarian Chair.
The ISTAT Foundation’s Humanitarian Aid Program supports causes that are designed to help save lives, promote human welfare, and provide medical treatment and transportation to those suffering from global disasters and afflictions. To learn more about the ISTAT Foundation, visit www.istat.org/foundation.
NASCAR Driver Carl Edwards Joins
Wings of Hope Honorary Council
Top NASCAR competitor famous for giving away his trophies
ST. LOUIS, MO (October 19, 2016) — One of NASCAR’s top drivers has joined the Honorary Council of Wings of Hope, the St. Louis-based aviation charity. Over the last 14 years, Edwards has had a storied NASCAR career, moving his way from the Camping World Truck Series through the XFINITY Series and into NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. Along the way, he has captured two XFINITY Series Championships and placed himself in elite company—ranking fourth all-time in the XFINITY Series with 38 wins. He also won the coveted Sprint All-Star race in 2011. His impressive resume in NASCAR’s top Series now includes 27 Sprint Cup victories, 122 top fives, 215 top10’s, and 20 poles.
“Carl Edwards is a fierce competitor with a heart for others. I am thrilled about the energy and generous spirit he brings to our Honorary Council,” said Wings of Hope Board Chair Steve Akre. “His fans love him—not only because of his performance on the track, but because of his professionalism away from the track.”
Edwards is known for opting to give several of his trophies away throughout the years. He also has worked with Speedway Children’s Charities, Make-A-Wish and Dream Factory, to name a few.
A Missouri native, Edwards began his racing career in 1994 at the age of 15. In the first 10 years of his career, he accumulated two NASCAR-sanctioned track championships, three Rookie-of-the-Year honors, and over 75 feature wins while racing on both dirt and pavement tracks. Edwards currently drives the No. 19 Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Wings of Hope President Don Hamblen Resigns
ST. LOUIS, MO (September 15, 2016) — Wings of Hope President Don Hamblen has resigned from the aviation charity.
“Don tendered his resignation, and the executive committee unanimously accepted it,” said Wings of Hope Board Chairman Steve Akre. “In his time here, Don used his experience in business and marketing to reinvigorate the Wings of Hope brand and set in motion some positive programs that we will continue to build upon. We wish him the best in his next endeavor.”
Hamblen, a former U.S. Navy Captain, came to Wings of Hope after more than 30 years working in various senior leadership positions in sales development.
The Wings of Hope Board has named a team to conduct a nationwide search for a new candidate to fill the organization’s top post. Laura Helling, the nonprofit’s director of development for three years, will serve as interim president throughout the search process. She brings to the position her prior experience as a nonprofit executive.
Barrington Irving Joins Wings of Hope Honorary Council
Pilot was first African American to fly solo around the world
ST. LOUIS, MO (February 2, 2016) — Barrington Irving, a pioneering pilot and aviation educator, has joined the Honorary Council of Wings of Hope, the St. Louis-based aviation charity. Irving was born in Jamaica and grew up in inner city Miami, surrounded by poverty, crime and failing schools. When he was 15, a chance encounter with a pilot ignited in Irving a passion for aviation that would lead him to shatter his own expectations and the record books. In 2007, at the age of 23, he set a Guinness World Record as the youngest person at that time and only African American to fly solo around the world.
“Barrington’s rise from some of the toughest streets in America to record-setting pilot is an inspiration to any child who has ever dreamed of something better,” said Wings of Hope President Don Hamblen. “Even more impressive is his dedication to sparking a passion for STEM careers in young people.”
Irving founded Experience Aviation, a nonprofit that aims to boost the numbers of youth in aviation and other science and math-related careers. The program engages students with hands-on robotics projects, flight simulator challenges, and STEM-inspired field trips. In his inaugural “Build & Soar” program, 60 students from failing schools built an airplane in just 10 weeks—and then watched Irving fly it. In 2014, he launched the world’s first flying classroom, a jet with digital, cutting-edge global flight curriculum that travels the world inviting students to participate in real-world STEM research and expeditions.
Famed Aerobatic Pilot Joins
Wings of Hope Honorary Council
ST. LOUIS, MO (February 2, 2016) — Patty Wagstaff, a world-renowned aerobatic pilot, has joined the Honorary Council of Wings of Hope, the St. Louis-based aviation charity. Wagstaff, a six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team and one of the world’s top air show pilots, has won the gold, silver and bronze medals in Olympic-level international aerobatic competition. She is the first woman to win the title of U.S. National Aerobatic champion—and one of a few to win it three times.
“Patty is a wonderful addition to our Honorary Council,” said Wings of Hope President Don Hamblen. “She joins us not only as a world-class aviator, but as a longtime humanitarian with a heart for serving others.”
For over 10 years, Wagstaff has traveled to East Africa to train pilots of the Kenya Wildlife Service, a state corporation that protects Kenya’s elephants, rhinos and other natural resources from poachers.
Wagstaff also served as a Cal Fire pilot for three years before starting the Patty Wagstaff Aerobatic School in St. Augustine, Fla. Wagstaff was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2004 and was the 1994 recipient of the National Air and Space Museum’s Award for Current Achievement. Wagstaff’s Goodrich Extra 260 airplane and life story are on display in the museum’s Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery.
Did you know that about 90% of the individuals we serve in our MAT Program are frequent fliers? One of our youngest frequent fliers is William. He was born with clubfoot and Arthrogryposis, a joint condition in which some of the joints don’t move as much as normal and may even be stuck in one position. We few William 13 times round trip from his home in Minnesota to St. Louis Shriners Hospital – and, today, he is walking like a pro!
Emilee was a junior in college, all set to graduate early and already accepted into graduate school when things started going wrong. Normally bubbly, Emilee suddenly became anxious and depressed. Then the physical symptoms began. She lost the ability to walk, speak, hold a pencil, and her vision deteriorated. At her worst, she even needed a feeding tube. After many misdiagnoses, Emilee was diagnosed with Wilson’s Disease – a rare, genetic disease characterized by too much copper in the system that attacks vital organs.
Since February 2014, Wings of Hope has flown Emilee and her family 10 times from her home in Springfield, Mo., to the Wilson’s Disease Center for Excellence at University of Michigan. Because she has been able to work with a team of experts, Emilee has made great progress. She is walking (and running!), swimming, learning to speak again – and exceeding expectations on all fronts!
Griffin is one of our youngest MAT patients. Before he was even four months old, he had already made three round trip flights from his home in Ohio to St. Louis Children’s Hospital for treatment of bilateral clubfeet. His parents, Amanda and Corey, found out that Griffin would be born with clubfeet during Amanda’s 20- week ultrasound. Amanda immediately began researching the best treatment options for her son.
“My prayer was that we would find the best doctor to treat this,” she says.
She found Dr. Matthew Dobbs, who practices at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and is nationally recognized for his skill at treating all pediatric foot disorders – including the correction of clubfeet. Amanda and Corey drove with baby Griffin to St. Louis for their first consultation with Dr. Dobbs. The seven-hour drive (not including stops) was difficult with a newborn; the two days of travel also increased time away from Amanda and Corey’s other children, ages 6 and 3. While staying at St. Louis Haven House, the couple learned about Wings of Hope. Flying with Wings of Hope has shortened the trips by a day or more and relieved Amanda and Corey from the financial stress associated with making repeat trips for Griffin’s treatment.
Four-year-old Claire is a true Wings of Hope success story. When she was two, she got very sick, very fast. When she was finally diagnosed with HLH Syndrome, a rare condition that is fatal if not treated, her mother started driving her from St. Louis to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, an HLH Center of Excellence. When the 7-hour drive became too much for Claire, her mother found Wings of Hope. We flew her nine times round trip in 18 months—and Claire received a clean bill of health in July 2015!
Alex is 12 years old and loves sports—especially basketball. When he was 5, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Seven months of chemotherapy sent his cancer into remission.
Just before Alex turned 10, the cancer returned. A doctor at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital suggested he get tested for a rare immune disorder that affects boys (X-linked lymphoproliferative disease, or XLP) and causes lymphomas. Alex tested positive.
Alex endured another 6 months of chemo before getting a bone marrow transplant from his sister at Cincinnati Children’s—an XLP center of excellence. We have flown Alex four round trips to Cincinnati. We also flew his sister to Cincinnati for the transplant—and his father for a visit while Alex and his mom spent four months at the hospital. Today, Alex is cancer free and back on the basketball court!
Click image above to see complete History
Wings of Hope has a rich and storied history that traces back to 1962. Four St. Louis businessmen saw a need in the Turkana Desert for an aircraft to bring aid to the famine-stricken people scattered throughout the vast expanse – an area so remote and desolate that traditional means of travel were not only time-consuming, but often risky and dangerous. This initial humanitarian effort soon developed into a larger mission to help those in need living in remote areas of the world – which grew to include regions in Africa, central and South America, and Asia.
Over time, it became apparent that people living in certain remote, rural areas around in the U.S. also lacked access to sufficient health care. This was a particular need for families caring for children with advanced or rare medical issues. When specialists who offered the best chance at healing and recovery were not practicing locally, these families often faced the harsh reality of not being able to get their child the best care possible either because they could not afford the travel expenses or because their child was too sick to travel by traditional means. In 2003, Wings of Hope created the Medical Relief & Air Transport (MAT) Program to address the needs of these families.
More than a half century after our founders envisioned aircraft as a means to help the starving people, Wings of Hope continues to use our wings to lift up those who need healing and hope.