Donations to Above the Clouds Charity
Above the Clouds brings joy and hope through the wonder of flight to children and teens who have a serious illness or disability, are underserved, or facing other serious adversity.
Donations to Above the Clouds Charity
DREAM FLIGHT EXPERIENCE
Above the Clouds representatives meet with area hospitals & social service agencies & schools to present the program & answer questions of hospital staff, social service providers, potential Dream Flyers & their families. Dream Flyers are selected for participation by participating hospitals & social service agencies.
An Above the Clouds Flight Coordinator enjoys the responsibility of building anticipation from initial contact leading up to Flight Day. He or she is the primary contact for the Dream Flyer & his or her family, by providing an overview of what to expect (including background & photographs of the designated volunteer Above the Clouds pilot & aircraft), & by coordinating schedules & related logistics. On Flight Day, the Dream Flyer & his or her family & friends are welcomed to Norwood Airport by Above the Clouds greeters with signs & balloons. Before the flight the Dream Flyer & his/her family participate in an exciting pre-flight briefing with the pilot. Sitting in the co-pilot’s seat, the Dream Flyer has a chance to assist the pilot in flying the plane. A flight above the child’s schoolyard with children waving below adds to the excitement of the day. Flight Day concludes with a postflight celebration with refreshments in the Above the Clouds Pilot/Family Lounge & the Dream Flyer is presented with his or her own official Above the Clouds flight jacket & aviator sunglasses. Family members & friends are involved before, during, & after the flight & thereby share a special bonding experience that will become an indelible memory. If the family agrees, the day is recorded by a photographer & videographer, & video cameras mounted to the airplane provide documentation of the actual flight. In many instances, there is coordination with local media
DREAM FLYOVER PROGRAM
Announcing our New “Dream Flyover” Program! Sure, the current crisis prevents the kids from coming to the airport, but ATC solves that problem with our new Dream Flyover Program by bringing ATC’s special brand of joy to the kids! One thousand feet of social distancing & support for a future Dream Flyer. ATC offers Dream Flyovers to kids whose Dream Flights have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch the video below to see our latest Flyover Adventure!
After starting 2020 with an amazing January Dream Flight Day for a group of kids from Dedham, ATC’s regular activities came to a grinding halt in March. But when the COVID-19 pandemic forced ATC to postpone kids’ Dream Flights this spring, we pivoted to offer “Dream Flyovers” to bring the flights to the kids. We changed from operating as an airport-based program, to a “road & air show”. Local firefighters & police generously partnered with Above the Clouds’ to add a Drive-by component to the planned Flyovers to create full ground-to-air friendship missions. Since April, the Dream Flyovers / Drive-bys have benefited more than 200 children in Massachusetts & New Hampshire. The Flyovers helped keep their hope alive & planted the seeds for kids to envision themselves as a Dream Flyer, Discovery Flyer or Cadet Flyer when it is safe for Above the Clouds to resume airport-based programming.
That was the summary, but the equally important story of the ATC Dream Flyovers is that, more than at any other time, the Flyovers validated ATC’s belief in the transformational power of joy, & the enormous impact a small act of kindness can make… on everyone involved. 2020 created enormous stress, along with widespread yearning for joy. As major airlines cut flights, the Dream Flyovers gave ATC the privilege to offer hundreds of people a chance to experience joy through aviation in action.
In April ATC began planning the first Dream Flyover. A volunteer pilot & his wife would circle their helicopter over the home of Jake, an &over boy with a serious medical condition. To insure everyone stayed safely distant on the ground, our Joy-makers were just three people from one household & one person from another. We notified the local Fire & Police department in case they got calls concerned about a circling helicopter. The first responders immediately offered to lead a drive-by parade. One firefighter drove from Norwood to &over on his day off to participate. When we told friends about the plan, mothers & kids from Boxford called saying they wanted to decorate their cars to participate in the drive by parade. The kids were so excited to drive between the fire engines, waving balloons, signs & stuffed animals from their sunroofs. They had driven 10 miles to participate, & none of them knew Jake or ATC.
That day Jake & his family were treated to a heartfelt Dream Flyover / Drive-by parade that involved fire trucks, police motor cycles, a dozen families they had never met, neighbours who joined on front lawns along the route, & a best friend who played his trumpet out the window of his Mom’s car. Jake’s family was interviewed for the local paper, & Above the Clouds was put on the map in &over. That first Dream Flyover had been a truly joyful & safe event that raised the spirits of dozens of people in the middle of a pandemic. We realized we were on to something.
Word of the Flyovers spread quickly & more volunteers offered to help, including Boston Executive Helicopters & a professional aerial photographer. For the May Flyover day we simultaneously deployed teams of volunteers to 3 locations. One of those sites was the Italian Home for Children, a Jamaica Plain residential program for 30+ kids who are in long-term foster care. Interestingly the Home had been founded 100 years before to house orphans who had survived the 1918 flu pandemic. For almost 3 months those kids had not left the Home’s small property, & had seen no one except the staff. As ATC’s Joy-maker ground crew was quietly setting up for the Flyover & writing the kids’ names in large chalk letters on the driveway, the kids spotted us & started shouting out the windows, “Don’t forget me! Write my name in green / blue / pink! Here’s how to spell my name!“ There was not a dry eye among the ground crew as we finished the set up & stood back as the kids raced outside, jumping up & down, finding their names, laughing & high-fiving. The Flyover that day was the most exciting thing that had happened at the Home in months – the helicopter circling & emerging from behind the building ever closer on each loop, & the firefighters sharing the event alongside the kids. The Italian Home had been the pilot’s third stop that day, after flying over the Roslindale home of a girl who has medical issues, & over another school for inner city low income kids. NBC-TV & local online & print news covered the May Flyovers that day, casting a new & unique spotlight on aviation community resources & ATC programs. Two months later the schools reported that the staff & kids could not stop talking about their Flyover day & they look forward to sending kids to ATC programs as soon as we can resume.
In June we reached out to more organizations & residential schools that served kids who had disabilities or who were in state care. For a few of the summer Flyover events, to protect the safety of kids in state care, ATC could not take photos of kids faces, so we skipped the media coverage. Kids in Freetown asked, “Are we famous? Are you famous? Can you L& that helicopter at my school?” Pilot Bill talked to those kids through the radio & a loud speaker & heard dozens of kids shouting his name, asking questions about the plane, & how fast & high he was flying. They wanted to know what they looked like from the sky. The kids sent Bill got many h& made thanks cards. Again, the schools were thrilled to have a new partner to provide novel opportunities for kids during & post-pandemic. More ATC Joy-maker volunteers wanted to get involved.
David, a New Hampshire based pilot, flew with his son taking photos from the co-pilot seat, to provide Flyovers in 3 locations in Laconia, New Hampshire. At every Flyover additional pilots joined the ground crew so kids could talk to real pilots & answer their questions about the planes & helicopters. The family of two former Dream Flyers volunteered at several locations. The brothers, Arman & Jahan both have serious medical challenges, but they have been safely volunteering as ATC’s superstar sidewalk chalk artists. They can’t wait to be old enough to learn to fly.
ATC’s November Flyover was hosted at the League School in Walpole, where the pilot actually was able to L& the helicopter. The kids got to see, hear & feel the wind from the helicopter as it circled closer & landed. Kids & their grown-ups, checked out the helicopter, posed for photos & spoke to the pilots. A Norwood firefighter brought an engine & gave a detailed tour to the kids after the helicopter took off. The Joy-maker ground crew filled the parking lot with the colourful chalk art & the names of all the kids who attend the school, so that even those who missed the Flyover would see that they had been remembered at the event.
In just over 6 months ATC hosted Flyovers at 15 locations & brought joy through aviation to more than 200 kids, along with at least that number of grown-ups who care for them, & the dozens of volunteers who participated. The sites were as diverse as a residence on a cranberry bog, to an apartment complex in Laconia, to a school where kids communicated in sign language, & another that ran a bubble machine during the event. The kids in the schools represented more than 60 hometowns. Some of the kids had no family at all. All of the kids face major challenges, but all were able to experience the Flyovers, just like ATC’s Dream Flights, as the ultimate inclusion activities. EVERYONE feels special when a helicopter is circling above his or her home! For some kids, the Flyover was a prelude to future ATC aviation opportunities to come.
In the Discovery Flyers program, teenagers are introduced to aviation by Discovery Pilot mentors. Discovery Flyers have the opportunity to fly regularly with their Discovery Pilots. During these flights, the young Flyers are given the opportunity to fly the plane from the co-pilot’s seat. In addition, Discovery Flyers attend periodic aviation field trips & are encouraged to help out on Dream Flight Days. One example was a “Fly-Out” to CT’s Bradlee International Airport where we visited the New England Air Museum.
Discovery Flyers Program Updates:
October 2021: Discovery Pilot Greg Bongiorno, Director of Safety/G500 GVII PIC; ICON Authorized Flight Instructor & partner in Low Altitude Adventures (did we mention he is also member of the Board of Directors at Above the Clouds?!), took to the skies & lakes with Mamadu Tchamo from Brockton, our newest Discovery Flyer recruit.
CADET FLYERS PROGRAM
The Cadet Flyers & Discovery Flyers Programs are a direct response to the growing number of young people who are either falling through the cracks at school or are involved with social service agencies due to poverty issues or difficult home situations. The drop-out rate in the Boston Public schools is unacceptably high, & almost one-third of the students do not graduate with their class. Schools & social service agencies have been searching, often without success, for that elusive motivational tool that will serve as the conduit to encourage these teens to apply themselves, stay in school, achieve, & follow a path toward a better future. Above the Clouds steps in to provide that missing motivational tool — the “coolness” of flight & the allure of learning to fly an airplane. Above the Clouds uniquely provides this programming on a cost-free basis for teens in need.
The Cadet Flyers Program:
Inspires a sense of hope in the future by expanding the perspective of young people to make them aware of life’s possibilities
Builds a sense of responsibility by establishing goals & following through on commitments
Teaches the value of education as a means to achieve a goal
Develops discipline, integrity & self-esteem
Above the Clouds is thrilled to welcome volunteers to help accomplish our mission of bringing joy & hope to seriously ill & underprivileged children. Volunteer opportunities are listed below.
Become a Dream Flyer Pilot
Volunteer your piloting skills to bring joy & hope to a Dream Flyer & his/her family. After a pre-flight briefing with the Dream Flyer & his/her family & friends, you will take the Dream Flyer on an approximately 30-45 minute flight. Afterwards you are welcome to join us for a post-flight celebration in the Pilot/Family Lounge. All operating expenses are eligible for a charitable deduction to the fullest extent permitted by the Internal Revenue Code. Please see your tax advisor for additional information.
Become a Discovery Flyer Pilot
Volunteer your piloting skills to bring joy & hope to a Discovery Flyer. Discovery Flyers are teens who have experienced adversity & are given the special opportunity to learn about flying from the co-pilot seat. Discovery Pilots fly with their young charges once or twice a month for a minimum of 5 sessions. All operating expenses are eligible for a charitable deduction to the fullest extent permitted by the Internal Revenue Code. Please see your tax advisor for additional information.
Become a Cadet Flyer Pilot
Eligible Certified Flight Instructors are encouraged to change the life of a teenager by teaching him/her how to fly. New Cadet Flyers begin the program in April & take lessons through solo flight. In the summer, Cadet Flyers take lessons twice a week & go on aviation field trips once a week. During the school year, Cadet Flyers continue to fly once a week weather permitting. All operating expenses are eligible for a charitable deduction to the fullest extent permitted by the Internal Revenue Code. Please see your tax advisor for additional information.
Join the Ground Crew on Dream Flight Days
Make signs to welcome families to the airport
Greet families with signs & balloons upon their arrival
Decorate Pilot/Family Lounge
Socialize with family on the ground while the flight is taking place
Distribute refreshments at post-flight celebration
Take pictures/videography of Flight Day
Become a Flight Coordinator
Reach out to family participants to create anticipation of Flight Day
Provide the Dream Flyer & his/her family with information about the Dream Pilot & airplane
Gather information about any special accommodations required by the Dream Flyer on Flight Day
HOME BASE NORWOOD
It all started at Norwood Memorial Airport with Above the Clouds’ first flight on May 4, 2013. Today Home Base Norwood runs 8-10 Dream Flight Days annually – & serves as the hub for numerous Discovery & Cadet flights.
Conveniently located just outside of Boston, ATC’s Home Base Norwood serves kids from Massachusetts & other New England states. Our close proximity to Boston’s highly-rated universities, research & teaching hospitals, & a wide breadth of school & social service organizations; enable us to be an accessible resource for children facing all kinds of adversity.
Above the Clouds has grown dramatically, having flown its 500th Flyer in 2019. The Norwood Pilot Squadron is made up of volunteer pilots based at Norwood Memorial Airport, as well as many other pilots who fly in from local airports & even surrounding states to participate in all three Above the Clouds Programs.
ATC’s Home Base Norwood is also the hub for its volunteer Board of Directors & Leadership Council. Together, these groups serve as the strategic think tank to maximize ATC’s outreach & impact to bring joy & hope to children facing serious adversity.
WHO ARE WE?
w1Above the Clouds brings joy & hope through the wonder of flight to children & teens who have a serious illness or disability, are underserved, or facing other serious adversity. ATC’s programs provide important relief for kids under tremendous stress & inspire disengaged youth to participate in making their dreams come true. The non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization accomplishes its mission through its four programs: Dream Flyers, Cadet Flyers, Discovery Flyers, & our NEW Dream Flyover Program
Our squadron of volunteer pilots & dedicated volunteers make it all possible. Above the Clouds flies out of Norwood Memorial Airport in Norwood, Massachusetts.
ABOUT OUR FOUNDER
Gary is the former managing partner/Senior Counsel at Nixon Peabody LLP’s Boston office & an instrument-rated private pilot. As a practicing labour & employment attorney for 30 years, he has been legal counsel to dozens of charitable organizations. He has sat on the boards of several charities that serve the needs of children as well as on the board of IMC Club, International, an organization serving instrument-rated pilots. Gary has lived in the Boston area since 1986 & has had the joy & privilege of flying out of Norwood Memorial Airport for the past 15 years. Above the Clouds was born out of his desire to pair his passion for aviation with his wish to help seriously ill, disabled & underserved youth & other children facing serious adversity. Gary & a growing squadron of volunteer pilots are thrilled to volunteer their time to provide airplane rides for Above the Clouds. Along with his wife, Martha Oberstein, Gary launched Above the Clouds with huge hearts & a passion for aviation. Years later, thous&s of at risk youth have been served.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Greg Bongiorno (Director of Safety, Coordinate Operations LLC)
Reid Maclellan (Chairman of the Board, M.D., MMSc; Chief Executive Officer, Cortina Health, Inc.; Instructor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School / Boston Children’s Hospital)
Gary Oberstein, Esq. (Executive Director, Private Pilot & Senior Counsel (Former Managing Partner, Boston Office, Nixon Peabody, LLP)
Jim &ersen (Managing Partner, Foundation Management Associates, LLC)
Tara D’Alessandro (Contracts Counsel, Experian Information Solutions, Inc.)
Brendan Feitelberg (Private Pilot)
David B. Hampson (Instrument-rated private pilot; Managing Partner, Schrager Hampson Aviation Insurance Agency, LLC)
Ken Hertz (Captain, JetBlue)
Daniel L. Schrager (Instrument-rated Private Pilot; Founder & President, Aviation Insurance Agency)
Bob Kustka, In Memoriam (Secretary, Founding Board Member & Champion for Children; President, Fusion Factor, Inc.; Co-founder, Career Bound, Norwell, MA)
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