Contact: Carol Enright,
Communications Manager.
Cell: (636)489-9602


Boeing Invests in Wings of Hope STEM Program for Students

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

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.

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Wings of Hope Receives Grant from Berges Family Foundation

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

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.”

To learn more, visit

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About Wings of Hope

Wings of Hope changes and saves lives through the power of aviation. In the U.S., the nonprofit provides medical air transport services – free of charge – to individuals who need access to specialized medical care. The organization also works in 10 countries outside of the U.S., partnering with communities on programs that improve health care, education, and food and economic security. Wings of Hope has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and has a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator. In 2017, Wings of Hope directly served 45,858 people around the world. Visit or call 636-537-1302.


Taste of Hope Coming to Wings of Hope Hangar on Saturday, October 14

CHESTERFIELD, MO (September 20, 2017) — Wings of Hope’s Young Ambassadors are turning the organization’s hangar into a runway cafe on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Taste of Hope will offer ticket holders global fare from local restaurants, and beverages from Urban Chestnut, Granite City Brewery, Noboleis Winery and Monster Energy Drink. This family-friendly event will feature a DJ spinning tunes and kids’ activities, including face painting and the chance to climb into a real Wings of Hope plane. Proceeds support Wings of Hope’s international programs providing people around the world access to health care, education, sustainable food, and microcredit.

Taste of Hope
When: Saturday, October 14, 2017, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Where: Wings of Hope Hangar (Spirit of St. Louis Airport), 18370 Wings of Hope Blvd., Chesterfield, MO 63005
Tickets: $30 for adults (2 for $50), $10 for children 6-12; on sale at

Restaurants: Asabi Bistro, Daikin Eggrolls, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Mayuri India Restaurant, Smoothie King, Stefanina’s, Café Piazza, and more

Sponsors: Dierbergs Markets, Daikin Inc., DOT Foods, Gateway Buick GMC, Joe-K’s Used Cars, Culinary Institute of St. Louis, First National Bank, Greenway Communications LLC, MBM Wealth Consultants

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Wings of Hope Hires Bret Heinrich as New President and CEO

ST. LOUIS, MO (July 21, 2017) — Wings of Hope has a new president and CEO. Effective August 1, Bret Heinrich will assume the top post at the aviation nonprofit, which is headquartered at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, Mo.

Heinrich, an experienced nonprofit executive, most recently served as chief development officer at St. Andrews Charitable Foundation. His nonprofit experience also includes roles at the Oasis Institute and the Laurasian Institution.

“Hiring Bret was the culmination of a nationwide search that involved reviewing an impressive pool of 150 candidates over the past 10 months,” said Board Chairman Steve Akre. “Bret exemplifies the leadership we need to steer Wings of Hope as we continue to fulfill our mission of serving those in need both in the U.S. and around the globe.”

“I am honored to join Wings of Hope and build on its storied tradition of humanitarian service. The challenges facing societies on a global scale are unprecedented,” Heinrich said. “Knowing this, our opportunity — and our responsibility— to bring hope through education, access to health, and humanitarian aid to all corners of the world has also never been greater.”

Heinrich is immediate past-president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, St. Louis Regional Chapter, and a member of the association’s international board of directors. He serves on the Kirkwood School District R-7 Board of Education, and is immediate past-president of the Kirkwood School District Foundation Board of Directors. Nationally, Heinrich serves on the Albuquerque Oasis Board of Directors and has held leadership roles on other nonprofit boards. Heinrich is an adjunct professor in the Washington University and Webster University nonprofit management programs and has presented on this topic in the United States and internationally.

Heinrich holds a bachelor’s degree from Eureka College in Eureka, Ill., and a master’s degree from Western Illinois University. He earned his Certified Fundraising Executive credential in 2005. Heinrich also is an ordained minister in the General Council of Christian Churches.

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Minneapolis Woman Wins Airplane in Charity Raffle

Wings of Hope Delivering Plane to Crystal Airport on July 18

ST. LOUIS, MO (July 10, 2017) — The odds of Nyla Schroeder winning the Wings of Hope airplane raffle were slim. First, her ticket had to be selected from the 4,000 tickets sold. Second, she was participating in a raffle in which upwards of 95% of ticket buyers are men.

But Nyla beat the odds, and on July XX, Wings of Hope, an aviation nonprofit based in St. Louis, will deliver her plane, a Piper Archer II, to Crystal Airport.

Nyla, 38, is not a pilot, but she has already starting working toward her pilot’s license.

“I took my first lesson right after we won the plane,” she says.

The “we” she is referring to is her boyfriend, who is a pilot. The couple had been considering buying a plane, but decided it wasn’t in their immediate future when they got a postcard promoting the raffle in the mail. They looked up Wings of Hope on the web, and, thought, “Why not? Our money goes to a good cause,” Nyla says.

The raffle, which raised about $170,000, supports the charity’s Medical Relief & Air Transport (MAT) Program, which flies seriously ill individuals to specialized medical care free of charge. All 4,000 tickets sold out in less than six hours, and the raffle has become so popular that Wings of Hope started running two a year in 2016.

“We have been completely overwhelmed by the interest these raffles have generated and are truly grateful for the generous support of people like Nyla,” says Laura Helling, director of development for Wings of Hope. “With two a year, we are raising more than $300,000 annually to support our medical air transport program.”

The program has a Minnesota connection, too, having flown a number of patients to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for treatment.
“I was just happy to contribute to Wings of Hope,” Nyla says. “I think it would be great to contribute back to Wings of Hope or some other organization as a pilot, someday, years down the road.”

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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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