Martin Bell describes himself as “an average Joe who likes to fly,” but members attending the September meeting of the Association of Senior Care learned he is anything but average.
Fueled by compassion as well as his passion for flying, he contributes his own plane, gas and time to Angel Flight West, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing air transportation to people with compelling need.
Often the need is for medical care, with Angel Flight West being the only link to a patient’s much-needed treatment. Health-care facilities, research hospitals, children’s hospitals, nonprofit organizations and specialized treatment centers within its 14-state area have called upon Angel Flight West.
Flights have been provided to children attending special-needs camps, to help relocate domestic violence survivors, assisting veterans and active-duty military personnel, and even transporting therapy dogs in response to emergencies.
Sometimes their missions are less conventional. Bell once flew a young military veteran suffering from PTSD home to be with his family for Thanksgiving. Trains, buses or commercial flights would have proven too time-consuming and stressful for the young man, so his wish was granted and AFW transported him from Northern California to San Diego to spend relaxed time with his family for the holiday.
Bell shared a story of another pilot who received an unusual request. It was 11:30 p.m., and while getting ready for bed, he heard the phone ring — a young man had just died. His family had designated his organs to be donated, and the corneas needed to be transported immediately to waiting recipients. This brave and giving volunteer did not hesitate, rushing to his plane in the dark of night, flying up and down the coast to make the deliveries. Because he was willing to sacrifice the comfort of his bed that night, two people received the gift of vision.
From the day it began, Angel Flight West has been more than just about transportation. For all the pilots who have participated, it has been about giving of themselves, and of offering compassion and caring to people who are often confronting serious and sometimes life-threatening challenges.
Bell is one of the founding members of the Angel Flight West Santa Barbara Community Support Council, and he has flown more than 30 missions as an Angel Flight mission assistant. Today, Angel Flight West’s original few pilots have become many, and its commitment to seeing that people with medical and other compelling human needs reach their destination has been kept more than 50,000 times.
Flight by flight, Angel Flight West has expanded to serve the Western states, increasing the scope of the mission by serving more people in need. Person by person, the commitment is strengthened. AFW is always looking to provide more service in and around the Santa Barbara area. Call 888.426.2643 or click here for more information.
— Jackie Kennedy is a member of the Association of Senior Care.