Press Releases

Press Releases 2017-03-15T09:34:30+00:00

Contact: Carol Enright
Cell: (636)489-9602


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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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