At 8 years old, I was fascinated by the magical worlds created by Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Lorax,” “Horton Hears a Who” — these were worlds where it was okay to have fun with language, make up entirely new words, and stretch the imagination beyond known bounds. There was always an element of “permissible mischievousness” that was daring, yet caused no harm.

As I grew older, I began to see deeper meanings in the pages of these childhood friends. “The Lorax” had far more to say about protecting the environment than I ever understood as a child. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” wasn’t just a fun story about a green curmudgeon lacking Christmas spirit, but a lesson in how we can all be transformed to see the good in humanity.

One of my Dr. Seuss favorites, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” is a straightforward reflection on the journey of life we all take, and it reads in part:

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

As I think about those words today, I am reminded of my 8-year-old friend, Mason. We started flying Mason in February 2017 from his home near Buffalo, NY, to St. Louis so he could receive treatment for regressive clubfeet. The last time he visited, we enjoyed watching him skip through our hangar. Mason’s mom, Carla, says that Mason’s journey through treatment has taken him to new heights—and, despite setbacks, he remains determined. Carla said his dream is to “fly for Southwest Airlines and also fly for Wings of Hope when he has a day off, so he can help other kids get to the hospitals that they need.”

When Mason took a break from running around our hangar, he read me a book he wrote about his journey called, “In My Feet.” Mason has a great understanding that sometimes you don’t soar to high heights when he writes: “I worked hard to get strong, but the surgery didn’t totally fix my feet. My feet just fought against me AGAIN!”

Mason fought back. And through patience, persistence, and a can-do attitude, he prevailed. He closes his book with these words: “After lots of hard work, my feet got very strong. I can walk like any kid now. I may not be the fastest runner or highest jumper, but nothing can stop me now!”

Wings of Hope is proud to be part of Mason’s journey—and the journeys of all the patients we proudly serve. As we walk alongside the Masons of the world, and witness their relentless determination to overcome their struggles, we are all lifted up.

Bret Heinrich,
President & CEO


The threat of ice in the forecast didn’t stop more than 400 guests from packing the house at the sold out Hope Is Where the Heart Is gala at the Chase Park Plaza on Feb. 10.

The highlight of the evening was hearing the courageous stories of Matthew, a young man we fly to the Mayo Clinic for treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and Elizabeth, a 5-year-old girl with a smile that lights up the room, whom we fly to St. Louis Shriners.

Elizabeth made her way across the stage using a walker — a great accomplishment as this time last year she couldn’t walk! She spent the first five years of her life pulling herself from room to room using her forearms. A life-changing surgery at Shriners in May has moved Elizabeth closer to someday walking without a walker. Elizabeth’s good friend John Cordell, the Shriner who drives her between Shriners and Wings of Hope, joined her on stage to talk about the special bond the two have formed on Elizabeth’s trips to St. Louis. John shared the story of how when he and his wife learned that Elizabeth’s big surgery would take place on her 5th birthday, they arranged to take Elizabeth out to a birthday dinner celebration the night before. Elizabeth calls this “the best day of my life.”

Twenty-eight-year-old Matthew shared how learning he had cancer “turned his life upside down and put everything on hold.” Matthew’s “everything” includes serving in the Air Force Reserve for almost 11 years — including being deployed twice — studying to be a nurse, and working as a police officer. He had just applied to join the Mississippi Highway Patrol when he found out he had cancer. Even though Matthew has some radiation treatment ahead, he shared the good news that his cancer is in remission!

Matthew’s mom, Kim, spoke about what Wings of Hope and the dinner auction meant to her.

“You never know how the things you did tonight, like bidding on items or the silent auction — you give and you help others, which is what we’ve always tried to do is give and help others — you don’t know when it’s going to be you that needs the help. And we are so grateful for you reaching out to us in our time of need.”



Frequent flier and future Wings of Hope pilot, Mason, stopped by our hangar after a recent appointment at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Mason, 8, whose case of clubfeet is more resistant to treatment than most, is on his way to a complete recovery by age 10.

As he met with our pilots and checked out some planes in our hangar, he shared with us his plans of becoming a pilot—first for a commercial airline (to pay the bills!), and then as a volunteer for Wings of Hope.

Mason also shared with us a book he wrote and illustrated. Appropriately titled “In My Feet,” the book gives Mason’s firsthand account of his struggle with clubfeet. In it, he talks about traveling to St. Louis with his mother to see “the best doctor in the world” — and how Wings of Hope “helped us fly every time.”

We can’t wait to welcome Mason to our pilot crew!


Our April 2nd Airplane Raffle was one for the books. We sold all 4,000 tickets in 3 hours, 24 minutes—and raised a whopping $168,925. We will pull the winning tickets on May 18 at 1 p.m. Central Time. Stay tuned…and good luck to all ticket holders!


Our April 2nd Airplane Raffle was one for the books. We sold all 4,000 tickets in 3 hours, 24 minutes—and raised a whopping $168,925. We will pull the winning tickets on May 18 at 1 p.m. Central Time. Stay tuned…and good luck to all ticket holders! We were recently honored to receive a very special visitor. Sandy Turner’s family once owned our Cessna 206KY. The plane has toured the world saving lives. It is now in St. Louis, and our hangar crew is all-hands-on-deck getting it ready to fly in the states again! Sandy’s visit was especially poignant because Wings of Hope bought the 206KY as a salvage plane after it crashed into Kentucky Lake, tragically claiming the lives of her son and infant grandson. In the months that followed, Sandy helped Wings of Hope refurbish the wrecked plane so it could be used in our field missions. When Sandy’s friends and family learned of her history with Wings of Hope, they collected donations for her to give to us during her visit. We are deeply grateful for Sandy’s longtime support of Wings of Hope following such a devastating personal loss.


GoJet Airlines logoOn Saturday, April 28, our Young Ambassadors and their volunteer crew set up shop outside the Wings of Hope hangar for their third annual plane wash. The all-day event was lots of good, clean fun—and raised $3,955, almost double what the event brought in last year! The fundraiser was in partnership with SLU’s chapter of Alpha Eta Rho and the proceeds will be used to support Wings of Hope’s international field sites. Thank you to all who volunteered, everyone who purchased a plane wash — and a special shout out to GoJet Airlines for being this year’s top sponsor!


Did you know that Wings of Hope receives about 20 donated planes a year? NBC TV station TMJ-4 covered a recent donation from Alan Kuro, a donor in the Milwaukee area. Alan earned his pilot’s license in the 1970s, but had to give up flying due to medical reasons. When he got a flyer in the mail about the Wings of Hope plane donation program, he thought donating his Piper 180 would be a great way to support a good cause. In an interview with TMJ-4 reporter, TaTiana Cash, Alan said, “I enjoyed this. This was inspiring for me to do this.” Alan also talked about how his donated plane will be used to support our mission versus its former life as a private plane. “What they do with it (the plane) is a lot more than what I did,” Alan said. “I just did it for fun.” We are so grateful to Alan, and all of our aircraft donors. If you have a plane looking for a second life, give us a call at 636-537-1302 or email Learn more at the Airplane Donation page.



The Berges Family Foundation awarded Wings of Hope a $50,000 grant to support our U.S.-based medical air transport program. This is the first grant Wings of Hope 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 added.

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.”

To learn more, visit the Berges Family Foundation website.

Berges Family Foundation logo


Wings of Hope volunteer pilot, Ken Pratt, generously covered a gap in service in Belize during the two months between previous pilot TJ Stewart leaving and new pilot Michael Valley taking over the post. During the 60 days he was there, Ken wrote a daily blog, providing colorful, day-in-the-life vignettes of a field pilot in Belize. We will begin posting Ken’s blog on a weekly basis on our website at media/blogs/pratt. Here is an excerpt from Ken’s blog, appropriately titled, Day 2:

Today, we got down to the business of flying…

There are five primary airports that I will be sent to: two to the north (one of which is closed for construction) and three to the south. The farthest one is about 45 minutes away, the closest one about 15 minutes. None of these airports have control towers. None have lights. They vary in length from 2,100-3,500 feet. The narrowest is a mere 40 feet wide. None of them have parallel taxiways. And it goes without saying that none have any instrument approaches.

So, the flying is only VFR (visual flight rules), and restricted to daylight only, with no instrument approaches. Generally, the weather allows these types of operations…

Today, TJ (former Wings of Hope pilot in Belize) took me on a familiarization trip to see all of these airports. I made a landing and a takeoff at each of the four airports which were open. Some of the special challenges that we encountered today included a large black dog walking across the runway as I completed my landing rollout, vehicles on a public road which crosses the departure end of one runway, and numerous uncontrolled commuter aircraft operating at the same airports. Not to mention the narrow runways, lack of taxiways, and limited space to turn around at the end of the runways!

This is not exactly “bush” flying. But it is a far cry from the type of flying that I’ve done for the past 40 years…

Read more blogs by Ken here.


On January 28, we gave a true Wings of Hope sendoff to a very special Cessna 182. The plane was used in a hands-on STEM program for students in Texas. Now, it is flying medical air transport missions for Adventist World Aviation in Guyana. Surrounded by Wings of Hope volunteers, staff and friends, Pastor Ken Olin blessed the plane—before pilots Jud Wickwire and Richard Visscher flew it 2,600 nautical miles to its new hangar in Georgetown, Guyana.


learning through working on aircraft. Stakeholders were convened over three extensive sessions to develop the Soar into STEM program’s curriculum and outcomes. Led by STEM expert and consultant, Dr. Deborah Holmes, and Wings of Hope Global Programs and Partnerships Director Dr. Jessica Watson, the committee includes representatives from three St. Louis-area school districts (Jennings, Ferguson-Florissant, and Kirkwood), the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, Boeing, St. Louis Community College, Women in Aviation, Greater St. Louis Flight Instructors Association and, of course, Wings of Hope. Maritz Corporation provided the initial funding for the program design phase.

“Our goal is to engage students in our own hangar while working with airplanes. We think there’s an opportunity to excite kids about STEM-related activities and aviation,” says Wings of Hope President and CEO Bret Heinrich. “We’re involving partners like the Girl Scouts and Women in Aviation to help encourage young women to explore this field.”

By exposing students to aviation as a humanitarian tool, the program also aims to ignite in students a passion for serving others. Soar into STEM is on track to launch during the 2018-2019 school year.


In November 2017, Wings of Hope was the grateful recipient of a $10,000 grant from Maritz to fund the planning phase of our Soar into STEM program. Through its involvement in STEMpact, Maritz is a leader in supporting and promoting STEM education for youth in our region. Wings of Hope is proud to be a Maritz Community Partner. Thank you, Maritz!



Here at Wings of Hope, we hear many wonderful stories from the field about the impact we are making around the world.

  • In Cambodia, we recently celebrated the graduation from university of nine students who benefited from an English language peer tutoring program we support there.
  • In Kenya last year, our partner Transfedha Microfinance provided 771 microloans to women entrepreneurs to start and grow small businesses.
  • And there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t see or hear from one of the families we transport to medical care in the U.S.

Every new day brings new opportunities to make a difference around the world, and we depend on donors like you to help us continue this important work. In fact, your support is the only reason we are able to do so much. But did you know you can also create a future legacy by including a gift to Wings of Hope in your will or living trust? This type of gift offers some pretty attractive benefits:

  • Simplicity — Just a few sentences in your will or trust are all that is needed. Your attorney can advise you on the language, or give us a call and we would be happy to help.
  • Flexibility — Because you are not actually making a gift until after your lifetime, you can change your mind at any time.
  • Versatility – When planning a future gift, it’s sometimes difficult to determine what size donation makes sense. Emergencies happen, and you need to make sure your family is financially taken care of first. Including a bequest of a percentage of your estate ensures that your gift will remain proportionate, no matter how your estate’s value fluctuates.
  • Tax Relief — If your gift is subject to estate tax, it is entitled to a charitable deduction for its full value.

Give us a call and let us help. Contact Laura Helling at (636) 537-1302 with any questions about including Wings of Hope in your will or living trust. There is no obligation—and it will give us a chance to catch up on what has been going on in your little corner of the world.


Honorarium and memorial gifts are a wonderful way to celebrate and honor the people who are special in our lives. Wings of Hope is the humble recipient of hundreds of these tribute gifts annually. Those individuals who have included us in their estate plans are recognized in our Legacy Society. If you are interested in finding out how you can include Wings of Hope in your legacy and estate planning, please email Laura Helling at or call 636-537-1302.

Honor Of…

Kelsey Bennett

  • Bret Heinrich

Allyson & Lance Cordoni

  • Kathleen A. Taylor

Margaret Dickens

  • Carl & Mary Alice Brumley

Don & Dianne Haltli

  • Brennan Haltli

Owen Kehrer

  • Adam Bryan
  • Murray Hollis, III
  • Larry Cramer, Jr
  • Ronald Allen
  • Brenton Moore
  • Ben & Jana Kehrer
  • Wayne Monroe
  • Richard D. Allen
  • Karen Templeton
  • Jack Dyer
  • Sherrie Coombs
  • David Marckel
  • Cyndi McConnell
  • Andrew Littleton
  • Edward Jones
  • William Troy Gardner
  • Romona Palmer

Arnold Kreitman

  • Melinda Jane Nielson

Don Kukla

  • Patricia M. Kukla
  • Derick L. & Sally Driemeyer

Larry Lemke

  • Jeffrey A. & Sharon Rosenblum
  • Steven Rosenblum
  • Gary C. and Gail Voss

Payton Manning

  • Linda Manning

Pierre Moeser

  • Sharon Bolen

Don H. & Sally Morton

  • Tiffany J. Schroeder

G R Potter

  • Cheryl Turano

Joshua Sager

  • Andrew Sager

Bonnie Solomon

  • Judy Schenberg

Memory Of…

William Neil Aitkenhead, II

  • Sylvie Pouget

John W. Anderson

  • Chuck & Karen Smith

Dean Anthony

  • Velma Anthony

Charles Bourneuf

  • Mary Beth Layton
  • John & Patricia Barbieri
  • Charles & Sandy Feller
  • Kathleen Brinton
  • Tom & Lisa Enger
  • Nancy Koger
  • Linda Jackson
  • Edward & Ellen Strouth
  • Alvin & Marilyn Horst
  • Mark & Brigid Kochera
  • Mary Wyatt
  • Ernie & Mary Jo Verhulst
  • Cecille Gerber

Jerry Bowe

  • Kathie Grubb

Amy & Tina Cassimatis

  • Kim & Janice Charles

Robert Clack

  • Lawrence Luckwaldt
  • Bob & Mary Cunningham
  • Anonymous

Gene Collier

  • Jim Mennemeyer
  • James & Charlotte Franklin

Carol Culver

  • Lori Sherk

Lisa Franze

  • Michael & Judy Franze

Larry Henderson

  • Jean Henderson

Claudia Kaiser

  • Arnold Kreitman

Cindy Lamorette

  • George Knirsch

Laurence Long

  • Lt. Col. John Schmidt (ret)

Joan Lorenz

  • Lt. Col. John Schmidt (ret)

Lynn Lowrey

  • Beth Campbell

William McCarthy

  • Kathleen Dieter

George Paul Menos

  • Chris & Tina Paradowski
  • Martin & Joyce Walsh
  • Andrea Dedo
  • Ron & Beth McLean
  • Clark Hickman
  • Roger Mitchell
  • Laura Crowley
  • Carlton & Eleanor Perry
  • Alexis Dendrinelis

Joe Mills

  • Stacy Schaefer
  • Roy & Carol Boschert
  • Angela Walleman
  • Dorothea Mirth
  • Rick Oloteo & Laura Helling
  • Pamela Pullen
  • Erik Mirth
  • Lt. Col. John Schmidt (ret)
  • Paul Burtis
  • Anonymous
  • Edwin Cecil
  • Cox OP Rehab co-workers of Jennifer Ward (Mills)
  • George Ballard
  • Ken & Cindy Berman
  • Larry & Carolyn Donlon
  • Vickie Dunn
  • Mark & Nancy Melliere

Norman L. Morrisette

  • Timothy Bury
  • Michael Neal
  • Teresa Matthews
  • Beverly Patterson

James Mynning

  • Eliza Hix

Isabelle Rea

  • Aero Charter

Ed Rosenmayer

  • Tom Rosenmayer

Jim Rosso

  • Ben & Adrienne Lear
  • Thomas Guernsey
  • Anita Iurlano
  • John Iurlano
  • Gloria Kocher
  • G. Michael Dill
  • Ian Bodell
  • Patricia Bellows
  • Potomac Air Lodge 1976
  • Nancy Dimartini
  • Gregory & Lori Weimer
  • Hank & Ann Buechli
  • William Simon
  • John & Betty Zern

William B. Schreiber

  • Donald R. & Kathy Karr

James Leo Smith

  • Safety National
  • Maher & Co PC
  • Tom & Nancy Hale
  • Leonard Dino, Sr.
  • John S. Ross
  • Mark & Jackie Fredman
  • Bob & Peggy McKelvey
  • Rick Ortyl
  • Kenneth J. & Tory Mallin
  • Amarnek Family Charitable Fund
  • John & Cheryl Schnurbusch
  • Walter E. & Norma Bentrup
  • Robert & Judith Tobben
  • Brian & Crystal Kennedy
  • Jim Watson
  • Peggy Grever
  • Kathleen M. Ratcliffe
  • Kenneth & Linda Behlmann
  • Joshua & Elizabeth Dowling
  • David Mason
  • Marc & Nancy Cacciarelli
  • Mark & Raizell Kalishman
  • Coeli Scott
  • Mary Granville-Laubengayer
  • Russell & Betty Kraeger
  • Karen Lorenzini
  • Paul & Cher Grosse
  • Leslie Cusanelli
  • Anita F. Doyle
  • Kathleen Sherby
  • Lynn Schenck
  • Mary McMath
  • Donald Ogle
  • Ronald & Margaret Key
  • Kerby & Polly Claney
  • Mike Calcagno
  • Nanci & Jesse Napoli
  • Michael & Barbara Newmark
  • Robert Newmark
  • Peter & Susan Krombach
  • Carl & Jacqueline Conceller
  • Sharon Worrell
  • Steve & Sue Bollinger
  • Teresa McClish
  • Churchill Center & School Board of Trustees
  • Christine Murphy
  • Gary & Dianne Stitz
  • Edward J. & Vicki Crawford
  • Rick & Eileen Rechtien
  • Bernadette Sickmann
  • Charles Ogle
  • Erv & Mary K. Heyde
  • Constance Strotheide
  • Jackie Kriegshauser
  • Scott & Linda Malin
  • Philip Wright
  • Joe Morris, Jr.
  • Jerome & Catherine Gidlow
  • Joe & Nancy Robinson
  • Jennifer & Robert Way
  • Peter Mohs
  • Pamela Rogers
  • John Garavaglia
  • Don & Barb Woehle
  • Norma B. Schechter
  • Northstar Management Company
  • Joseph Buckel
  • Thomas Duerr
  • Mike & Jann Marler
  • Steve & Marion Penberthy
  • Richard & Jill Meyer
  • Mason Ave Family Foundation
  • John & Ann Parish
  • Kathy Hartrich
  • Luby Equipment Services
  • Stephanie Saur
  • Connie Lohr
  • Jean Hummel
  • Donald Niemeyer
  • Dan Puricelli
  • Charleen Walsh
  • Patricia Hayes
  • Patricia Blair
  • Raymond R. Jr. & Laurie A. Van de Riet

Theodore Stecher

  • Jane Johnston

Betty Taylor

  • Henry & Loretta Hampel
  • Carolyn Hampel

Margaret Ann Tomkins

  • George Knirsch

Terry Twomey

  • Mike Calcagno

This list is for gifts received from 10/25/17 through 4/25/18.

Are you a Thrivent member? If yes, Wings of Hope needs you! See how you can make a difference, check out this link or call Laura Helling at 636-537-1302.