Steamboat Springs pilot Mike Forney explains the Angel Flight organization.
Hayden In 84 years, Cecille "Eefie" Shroll had never missed a family reunion.
That prospect became a very real possibility this year, though. The hospice patient and resident of The Haven in Hayden was told she was too frail to make the trip. But thanks to a hospice volunteer's recommendation of Angel Flight, an organization of pilots who provide free flights, local pilots ended up flying Shroll to Nampa, Idaho, free of charge.
"This is a little atypical," said Mike Forney, a local Angel Flight pilot who flew Shroll and her daughter, Sue Carter, to Idaho in his Cessna 182 Skyline. Angel Flight normally is used to transport patients to treatment, but also can be granted for other compelling reasons. "It wasn't really a family reunion as much as it was her last opportunity to see her family."
Forney, who started working with Angel Flight about 15 years ago in New York, said there was "absolutely no question" Shroll would be given the flight.
The situation also was atypical in its length. Most Angel Flights are about 300 miles one-way, Forney said; Shroll's was more than 500 miles. Ron Pollard piloted the return flight in his Cessna 210 Centurion.
Angel Flight pilots cover all the expenses of their trips. Forney estimated the fuel for the flights cost $500.
"They are just so incredible," Carter said. "The pilots provide everything. It is an incredible organization. They're pretty great guys."
Carter said she is grateful for all the exceptions and extra effort Forney and Pollard put in. Had they not, Carter said Shroll probably wouldn't have been able to see her family again before she dies.
"She has been sick and frail for quite some time," Carter said.
In addition to Shroll's physical illnesses, Carter said her mother also was "horribly homesick" and determined to make it to the family reunion. Shroll lived in Idaho most of her life and only came to Colorado four years ago to be with her daughter. In the end, Carter said, "pure heart made it happen," when it came to getting Shroll to the reunion.
Shroll, who had to be lifted into and out of the plane and was equipped with oxygen throughout the flight, said the experience was wonderful and her favorite part was getting to see her relatives, probably for the last time.
Carter said Shroll was not skittish about flying at all. For her 80th birthday, she took a hot air balloon ride.
"She was terrific," Forney said. "When we flew out, she insisted on sitting in the front seat. She's a real trooper."
For more information about Angel Flight, including information about donating to the organization, visit www.angelflightamerica.org.
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