High flying Eagles give a helping hand.…

Posted February 17, 2012 at 6:24 am by

Shown here, front to back , left to back: Vicky Thalacker holding Proclamation, Teresa De Graaf, Jim Cox, (second row) Dick Babbit, Mike Taylor, John Geyman, Lanny Carver; (top) Art Miller. Photo by Theresa Simendinger

These folks are part of the glue that keeps us togeth­er as islanders…here’s more from There­sa (thanks, Theresa!):

San Juan Eagles Hon­ored for Ten Years of Vol­un­teer Med­ical Flights
by There­sa Simendinger

Ten years ago the Eagles start­ed fly­ing on their own time and dime to help can­cer patients liv­ing on  San Juan Island. Founder Vicky Tha­lack­er still coor­di­nates the flights which fly patients and their care­givers to var­i­ous Med­ical Cen­ters. Cur­rent­ly approx­i­mate­ly 20 active pilots in the Eagles vol­un­teer, fly­ing close to 200 mis­sions a year to pro­vide trav­el assis­tance. Hun­dreds of patients lives have been made eas­i­er since that begin­ning. A treat­ment trip to the main­land could be as short as two hours as opposed to an all day event.

The Eagles received a Procla­ma­tion from Fri­day Harbor’s May­or Thurs­day at the Town Hall. May­or Car­rie Lach­er stat­ed, “I am pleased to hon­or the San Juan Eagles for their sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the cit­i­zens of Fri­day Harbor.”

Dur­ing the Town Coun­cil meet­ing  May­or Lach­er also pro­claimed Sat­ur­day, Feb­ru­ary 18th as “San Juan Eagles Day” in the town of Fri­day Har­bor, say­ing, “The San Juan Eagles exem­pli­fy what our com­mu­ni­ty is all about, neigh­bor help­ing neighbor.”

Sorop­ti­mist brought the Eagles’ 10th Anniver­sary to the atten­tion of May­or Car­rie Lach­er, who is also a Sorop­ti­mist. They felt the Eagles need­ed to know how much they were appre­ci­at­ed with some kind of spe­cial hon­or.  The Sorop­ti­mists have been help­ing fam­i­lies on the Island since 2004 with their offer of free fer­ry tick­ets and com­mer­cial flights on bad weath­er days to can­cer patients. A sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of mon­ey raised by Sorop­ti­mist is set aside for this project. In 2011 the costs were $15,679 raised by Sorop­ti­mists Fund Raisers.

“What a wonderful project to be involved with!” Vicky Thalacker, pilot and founder of the San Juan Eagles shown here with “Baby,” her Cessna 172. Photo by Theresa Simendinger.

Long time island res­i­dent (41 years) and pilot Vicky Tha­lack­er start­ed the San Juan Eagles vol­un­teer pro­gram. As a young girl Tha­lack­er watched the jets take off from near­by Sand­point Naval Sta­tion and dreamed of the day she would fly.

At 30, that dream came true with her husband’s encour­age­ment. As Tha­lack­er remem­bers, “I stud­ied hard­er than I ever had. I want­ed to be a pilot so much.”  In 1977 she earned her Pilot’s License.  After years of fly­ing John Tha­lack­er to his sur­vey work, Vicky found a new call­ing. She envi­sioned a vol­un­teer pilot group to fly can­cer vic­tims off island. Tha­lack­er could relate, as she had helped trans­port a friend who bat­tled can­cer for 28 years. She con­sid­ers this work a bless­ing as she is able to help oth­ers while doing some­thing she loves.

Tha­lack­er called a group of pri­vate pilots in the San Juan Pilots Asso­ci­a­tion and formed a group of 16 vol­un­teer pilots, two of whom were women, for their first meet­ing in 2002.

Eagle pilots vol­un­teer their time and pay for the fuel and main­te­nance for their planes. Patients and their fam­i­lies are often over­whelmed by the costs of treat­ment and this assis­tance is a ray of hope in these emo­tion­al and dif­fi­cult times. As many let­ters of grat­i­tude from patients said, “This ser­vice is real­ly won­der­ful and it helps so much to know my com­mu­ni­ty cares.”

Any island flight is filled with beau­ty and a seren­i­ty that can only be ethe­re­al­ly heal­ing for a patient in that kind of stress. The peo­ple of Fri­day Har­bor offer a heart­felt thank you to the San Juan Eagles.

Dona­tions accepted; 
San Juan Eagles wel­come con­tri­bu­tions through Vicky Tha­lack­er: vick­yt (at) rockisland.com
Sorop­ti­mist  Liz Illg coor­di­nates the Sorop­ti­mist Fer­ry Tick­et Pro­gram:  lizllg (at) rockisland.com  

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One comment...

  1. Thank you for rec­og­niz­ing what my mom and the oth­er pilots hav­ing been doing. To me, she’s a great inspi­ra­tion to find a way to make peo­ple’s lives bet­ter. What these peo­ple do is not huge, but if you were to ask any of the patients who have been flown or their fam­i­lies, it has a made going through treat­ments much, much easier.

    Comment by Kristina Ewing on February 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm

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