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Angel Flight brings aid, hope to victims

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chasity Moore, a recipient of Angel Flight Central services, exited a small Cherokee 180 after returning from recent surgery and skin graft operations at Shriner's Childrens Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her boyfriend, Jonathan Larson, was standing by to lend a hand if needed. The aircraft was piloted by Bryan Hawkins, of Willard, one of the many area Angel Flight pilots who donate their planes, fuel and time to make these necessary flights for those who otherwise couldn't reach their treatment centers due to distance, financial hardship or other humanitarian reasons. [Times Photo]
A fiery car crash. A severely burned young woman. And the nearest treatment center to address those injuries is over 650 miles away.

For Chasity Delaney Moore, a Barry County resident, that scenario was all too real in 2009.

Moore, a 17-year-old high school student at Washburn High School, was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her boyfriend, Jonathan Larson, when they were involved in a head-on collision on Highway F that runs through Mark Twain National Forest.

Jim DuPont, a Rogers, Ark., mail carrier who lives near the crash site, was first to arrive on the scene and tried to assist the occupants of both vehicles. DuPont feared Moore, the last to be pulled from the burning truck, was dead when she was finally freed.

"I didn't even recognize her when I first saw her at St. John's in Springfield," said Cindy Moore, Chasity's mother. "It's an image I'll never get out of my head. She was there for a month and then transferred to Shriner's Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio."

There, doctors worked for weeks treating Chasity's burns while her parents stayed close at hand.

"My husband, Heath, was a big help, or I would never have been able to get through this," Cindy said. "He lost his job at Mitchell Sawmill, in Fairview, because he had to be absent so much."

After Chasity was released from the Shriner's Hospital, she took her first Angel Flight, the one that brought her to the Monett Municipal Airport in a matter of hours, saving the family from a two-day overland trip which would have been both painful and exhausting for the injured girl.

"Angel Flight and Children's Miracle Network have been a huge help to our family," Cindy said, gazing out the airport window and listening for the sound of a small aircraft that would be bringing Chasity home from the latest round of skin grafts and surgeries. "She's doing better, very upbeat.

"While she was hospitalized, she fell behind in school and finally dropped out," Cindy said. "It was very hard on her."

In the distance, a small aircraft appeared from the depths of a deep blue summer sky, dropping smoothly to the tarmac.

The door swung up, and first to appear was Larson, Chasity's boyfriend, followed by the diminutive young lady herself. The pilot, Bryan Hawkins, of Willard, was the last to exit the small four-seater Cherokee 180.

Her eyes sparkled as she headed into the airport lounge.

"Every time I take a flight now I take different people with me just so I can see their faces," Chasity said. "At first, it was too exhausting. But now, I like to share the experience of Angel Flights with others.

"I let Jonathan sit by the pilot today because he likes to see how everything works on the plane," she continued. "Each time I take [a flight], it's a trip up and back, so, including the first one home, this makes my fifth."

Angel Flight coordinators serve people by arranging charitable flights to treatment centers for health care and other humanitarian purposes.

Some missions Angel Flight Central has participated include transportation for: cancer patients; transplant donors and recipients; those suffering from rare diseases; patients in rural areas needing access to larger health care facilities; those with immune-deficiencies unable to fly commercially; compassion flights for family members in times of crisis; transporting domestic abuse victims to safe havens and reuniting military personnel with their immediate families upon their return to the United States.

Volunteer pilots donate their time, their own airplanes, fuel and fly their passengers at no charge.

Angel Flight Central, which covers Missouri, also encompasses Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas and Minnesota.

Most Angel Flight missions are within a 300-mile radius, and generally, each flight is completed in two stints, with two pilots. One pilot flies the passenger to a halfway point, and then a second pilot picks up the passenger and completes the flight.

What these volunteers give patients is hope and help. What they receive in return is comfort in the knowledge that they could help their fellow man in their hour of need.

"I have been so blessed my whole life," Hawkins said. "I volunteer because I have the plane, the skills and the money to do it.

"I like to fly," Hawkins continued. "I'm sure other pilots volunteer for the same reasons."

For now, Moore is not certain how many more skin grafts and operations she will have to undergo, and her family is dependent on Angel Flight Central to coordinate those trips to Ohio so she can receive treatment.

For the hundreds of other people the program assists each month, like Moore, the service Angel Flight provides is invaluable.

"They have meant so much to us," Moore said of the program and its volunteer pilots. "Everyone is always so friendly and helpful. They make this [process] so much easier."

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