Wings of Hope has been awarded a $1 million grant from the William R. Orthwein, Jr. and Laura Rand Orthwein Foundation, growing the endowment for the volunteer medical air transport organization to $8 million.
Wings of Hope traces its roots to a humanitarian crisis in 1959 in the Turkana region of Kenya. An enterprising missionary, Mike Stimac, recognized that getting medical personnel, patients, equipment, and supplies to remote areas presented the biggest challenge—and it was one solved most readily by light aircraft. Through an initial fundraising campaign driven by a collaboration of pilots and clergy, enough money was raised to purchase a new Piper Super Cub 18A—for $11,000 in 1961.
Today, the organization works through its Wings of Hope Medical Relief & Air Transport (MAT) program to bring patients to medical services free of charge in 26 states in the U.S. within a 600-nm radius of its St. Louis headquarters. There are currently 20 volunteer pilots flying for the program—a fairly stable number that they tend to add to only when someone retires. The endowment has a goal of $10 million, and will be used to expand the MAT program by a projected 50 percent.
Senator Elizabeth Dole serves as the honorary chair of the endowment campaign—and she had kind words for the organization and its role in the St. Louis community and around the world. “By providing free medical air transportation, they lighten the immense burden families shoulder when caring for loved ones in serious medical crises,” Dole said. “They replace helplessness with hope and give families the support they need to navigate what can be a long and terrifying road to healing.”