With the help from local residents, Angel Flight of Southeast Georgia flew 3-year-old Rincon resident Kelsey Kanoy to New York for a necessary life-saving surgery last week.
Richmond Hill resident Dennis Williams and Jay Sipes, Associate Pastor of the Corinth Baptist Church in Keller, became involved and helped with a successful Angel Flight on March 7.
"Kelsey needed this," Kanoy’s father, Anson said. "These guys, without them this wouldn’t have happened."
Sipes knows the family through the Grace Community Church in Rincon. Kanoy has Arnold Chiari Malformation type 1, a neurological birth defect which occurs where the brain and spinal cord join. Sipes said this was her second trip to New York.
Angel Flight is a non-profit organization providing free air transportation for people with a medical need that can’t be filled in their region. The program works with volunteer pilots who donate their planes, time and funds to help transport people of all ages and medical needs to wherever they need to get.
While the organization had planes available, none met the requirements necessary to safely transport Kanoy. Bernadette Darnell, who heads Angel Flight in Atlanta, said the flight was considered a ‘mission impossible.’
"All other missions had been rescheduled or canceled, due to weather," she said.
Williams, a private pilot, said he might be able to help and called Herb McCormick, an Angel Flight pilot in Spruce Creek, Fl.
"When I contacted Herb, he put us in touch with Keith Philips of Spruce Creek, who immediately knew people who could help," Williams said.
Greg Farbolin offered to fly, with Tom Evernham as backup.
"This was Greg’s maiden voyage with Angle Flight. He was really emotional about it because he’s got kids the same age as Kelsey," Williams said. "This is generosity out of his pocket. These pilots are all referred to as ‘Archangels’ by the organization, and that’s exactly what they are."
Sipes said the flight originally required a list of requirements, including a pressurized cabin with oxygen and a difibulator. Kanoy’s fever also needed to break and a doctor and nurse had to go along.
"The lord took hand in this and started changing things," Williams said.
Before the flight, Kanoy stabilized and her fever broke; the plane no longer needed to fulfill the medical requirements. Farbolin took off from Daytona with tornado warnings and landed in rain at Signature Aviation at Savannah International Airport. But the weather improved right before they left for New York.
"Operations Manager Lon Harden waived the landing fee and reduced the price of fuel for Greg," Williams said.
Darnell said Atlantic Aviation volunteered ground transport to get to the final destination, Teterboro, N.Y., where Kanoy was having her surgery on Wednesday.
"Working at Angel Flight, where hope soars, we believe in miracles," Darnell said. "This mission certainly was a miracle."
Sipes said from a spiritual standpoint, he feels their prayers were answered.
"Because of everyone’s phone calls and the prayers that we shared, this information was sent out to people all over the east coast," Sipes said. "And when you see something − like watching the weather break just like we prayed for − it was just unbelievable."
Williams thanked everyone involved for all the help the family received, and encouraged local pilots to contact Angel Flight to find out how to help.
"There’s a lot of things that couldn’t have happened without people like them. Kelsey got where she needed to for the medical attention and that’s the most important thing. We all just used our talents to help make it happen," he said.