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Senator Elizabeth Dole is honorary campaign chair

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ST. LOUIS, MO (Nov. 7, 2019) — The Wings of Hope Soaring to New Heights Endowment Campaign recently received a big boost with a $1 million gift from the William R. Orthwein, Jr. and Laura Rand Orthwein Foundation, growing the endowment to nearly $8 million and moving it closer to its $10 million phase-one goal.

“We are beyond grateful for this important gift and the generosity of the Orthwein family,” said Wings of Hope President and CEO Bret Heinrich. “This is a major gift for Wings of Hope but even more meaningful for the countless families and children whose lives will be forever changed for the better because of it.”

The goal of the endowment campaign is to ensure Wings of Hope has the capital to secure the planes needed, cultivate the next generation of volunteer pilots, and expand the organization’s Medical Relief & Air Transport (MAT) program – allowing it to serve 50% more people with free transportation to health care.

“My family has deep roots in the St. Louis community and we are committed to caring for it. The Foundation made a significant initial investment in Wings of Hope in 2007 and a more significant additional investment in 2010 for the same reason we are investing in their endowment today,” said Foundation President Nettie O. Dodge. “We believe in Wings of Hope and its mission. Our investment in Wings of Hope today will help to ensure that they will be able to provide their excellent services well into the future.”

Senator Elizabeth Dole, honorary chair of the endowment campaign, praised Wings of Hope for supporting patients and caregivers.

“By providing free medical air transportation, they lighten the immense burden families shoulder when caring for loved ones in serious medical crises,” she said. “They replace helplessness with hope and give families the support they need to navigate what can be a long and terrifying road to healing.”

Jennings, Ferguson-Florissant and Kirkwood students to participate in spring 2019 pilot

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ST. LOUIS, MO (November 19, 2018) — Boeing awarded Wings of Hope a $79,896 grant to support a new hands-on STEM learning program for students called Soar into STEM. The pilot program, set to launch in the spring, is designed to pique students’ interest in STEM and aviation careers by allowing them to work on Wings of Hope aircraft at the nonprofit’s Chesterfield hangar. The grant supports Boeing’s commitment to developing tomorrow’s innovators by investing in STEM education.

“Boeing has long been a part of the Wings of Hope family. Many of our volunteers are Boeing retirees, and we’ve enjoyed the company’s friendship and support for many years,” said Wings of Hope President and CEO Bret Heinrich. “Boeing understands the challenges for building today’s and tomorrow’s aviation workforce and they stepped up to invest in this exciting new program to engage young people in joining the STEM workforce of the future. This grant will have a significant impact on our community’s pipeline of scientists, engineers and aviators.”

Wings of Hope developed the program curriculum by partnering with STEM experts and educators, including representatives from the Ferguson-Florissant, Jennings and Kirkwood school districts and the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri. Maritz provided seed funding for the planning phase of the program.

“Jennings School District is so excited to partner with Wings of Hope to help high schools soar to new heights in aviation and other STEM areas. Wings of Hope engaged a regional team of leaders for a year to tour the facilities, meet the CEO and key staff, discuss and create innovative internship opportunities and STEM activities, and more, at the historic Wings of Hope location,” said Jennings School District Superintendent Art McCoy. “Our students are eager to get started, and we are so grateful to Boeing for supporting Wings of Hope on this transformative workforce development, STEM-based opportunity for our youth.”

The Soar into STEM pilot program will be held at Wings of Hope’s world headquarters at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield. Students will meet four Saturdays for hands-on repair and modification of an airplane, presentations by guest speakers, and information about the Wings of Hope mission. At the program’s end, students will be assessed on aviation concepts and knowledge about aviation-related career paths.

The program will culminate with the students taking a flight in a small-engine aircraft. These flights will be sponsored by Elite Aviation, a flight instructor school at Spirit of St. Louis Airport.

$50,000 grant to support free U.S. medical air transport service

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ST. LOUIS, MO (April 5, 2018) — The Berges Family Foundation awarded Wings of Hope a $50,000 grant to support the organization’s U.S.-based medical air transport program. This is the first grant the aviation nonprofit has received from the foundation.

“We are very grateful to the Berges Family Foundation for supporting our efforts to use aviation to transport people to the medical care they need to heal and to hope,” said Wings of Hope President and CEO Bret Heinrich.

In 2017, Wings of Hope flew 202 individuals to hospitals and specialized treatment centers throughout the Midwest – free of charge.

“Jim and Cathy Berges invest in organizations that make St. Louis a great place to live, visit and invest. We are proud, and humbled, that they have chosen to invest in Wings of Hope,” Heinrich said.

The foundation has a particular focus on funding initiatives that support cultural engagement, STEM preparedness, youth empowerment, and first responders and veterans.

“Wings of Hope provides a vital link between people facing serious health crises and the medical professionals who can give them the best chance at recovery,” Jim Berges, co-founder of the Berges Family Foundation, said. “The Berges Family Foundation is delighted to support the work this organization is doing to support these individuals and strengthen our community.”


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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.


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