Ellis River Riders, Inc is proud to be a supporter of various non-profit and charitable organizations and causes. One such worthy cause is an annual fundraiser we did for Angel Flight Northeast. Angel Flight is a non-profit charitable organization which arranges free flights so children and adults can access medical care. These flights are conducted by pilots donating their private aircraft, their time and their fuel needed. With the average flight costing pilots over $350 per trip, volunteer pilots have found it financially difficult to fly these humanitarian missions as often as they like. Thanks to a special exemption granted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), qualified Angel Flight pilots may apply for reimbursement of fuel costs to help defray operating costs. This reimbursement must come from donations made to Angel Flight and not from the patients. In September 2014, Audrey McKenzie (ERR Treasurer 2014/2015) wanted to help this worthy cause by organizing a Murder Mystery Benefit Trail Ride in an effort to raise funds for the Angel Flight fuel reimbursement fund for Maine pilots. In 2014, two dozen Ellis River Riders members enjoyed a day of role playing and trail riding looking for clues in a mock "Who Done It Murder Mystery". While having lots of fun and laughs with good friends, the small group raised nearly $1,200 for Angel Flight. In September 2015, Audrey organized another Murder Mystery Benefit Trail Ride and raised another $2,600 for Angel Flight!
In September 2017 Ellis River Riders raises another $1,980 to benefit Angel Flight Northeast's Fuel Reimbursement Program!
But Ellis River Riders' commitment doesn't stop there! One of their own, Tony Milligan (Food Committee Chair 2011-2015) is a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight and has flown dozens of these missions recently, usually transporting patients from Northern Maine to the Boston, Massachusetts area for medical treatment.
The following are some of the more recent Angel Flight missions sponsored by Ellis River Riders:
LEVI M. (November 2015)- This special little bundle is 7-month old Levi, born prematurely without an esophagus and an underdeveloped heart, requiring multiple open heart surgeries to make him better. Levi and his young Mom and Dad live in Northern Maine near Presque Isle and have been making regular physically and financially draining trips by car to Shriner's Children's Hospital in Boston (7 hours one-way) and subsequent follow-up treatments at Maine Medical Center in Portland (5 hours one-way). Thanks to donations made by the fine members of Ellis River Riders, Levi recently enjoyed a 2-hour plane ride from Presque Isle to Portland - and slept comfortably the whole way!
Pictured here is Levi arriving in Portland on his very first Angel Flight with his new plane buddy - an Angel Flight Mr. Potato Head! Follow Levi's story on Facebook
Hailey S. (July 2017)- Hailey was 5 years old when she started getting sick with viruses, strep throat, and high fevers of 104 to 105. She spent 3 months in the hospital due to low cell counts, then in October 2012, her doctors decided to do a bone marrow biopsy, which confirmed she had "ALL B cell" Leukemia. That was the beginning of Round One. After being chemo free for 10 months at age 8, Hailey relapsed and the fight began again! Now at age 10, Hailey has begun experimental treatment in Philadelphia to help fight this aggressive form of cancer and ultimately eradicate the cancer cells once and for all. The distance from Bethel to Philadelphia is physically hard on Hailey and financially difficult for her parents - enter Ellis River Riders and Angel Flight Northeast! With funds raised from the annual Murder Mystery Benefit Trail Ride, Ellis River Riders donates money to Angel Flight Northeast to help reimburse volunteer pilots for the cost of their fuel for these humanitarian missions! Pictured here is Hailey on her first flight in a small private aircraft owned and piloted by ERR President and Angel Flight Volunteer Tony Milligan. Hailey was flown home to Bethel, Maine after painful and exhausting treatment in Philadelphia. The flight was sponsored by Ellis River Riders and cost Hailey and her parents nothing! Additional flights are expected to be needed in the future and Ellis River Riders and Angel Flight Northeast stands ready to help!
SAMANTHA B. (December 2015)- Samantha was diagnosed with stage III Melanoma and after undergoing surgeries, recently begun a clinical trial at a Boston hospital. She has been and will continue traveling to Boston weekly for three months and every other week for nine months for this experimental treatment. Traveling from Bar Harbor to Boston has proven quite a financial drain on Samantha so a friend referred her to Angel Flight to help.
Pictured from left to right is volunteer pilot Tony Milligan, Samantha and her friend Gail on their first Angel Flight to Lawrence, MA. From Lawrence Airport, an Earth Angel volunteer drove Samantha and Gail to the hospital for infusions. Follow Samantha on Facebook
Cooper P. (October 2017)- Angel Flight Northeast patient Cooper, age 6, is a very special little boy who very quickly sneaks into your heart! Cooper lives near Rockland, Maine. He was born with a brain defect and requires frequent neurological treatments in Boston. For someone who doesn't do so well on long trips by car, Cooper LOVES flying in airplanes and tolerates it exceptionally well.
In October, Ellis River Riders members Tony Milligan and Pam Tobin had the pleasure of meeting Cooper and his mom and flying him to Massachusetts for his doctor's appointment in Boston. And when the Cooper left the hospital, Tony and Pam were waiting at the airport to bring him back home! The fuel costs for the flight were paid for with donations collected by Ellis River Riders' Murder Mystery Benefit Trail Ride.
The prognosis looks good for Cooper!
Pictured here is Cooper at the Angel Flight Northeast office at the Lawrence Municipal Airport playing with one of the mission coordinator's "No" button from Staples. Cooper was absolutely fascinated with it! Everyone in the office quickly fell in love with Cooper's infectious personality and laugh and ended up showering him with toys donated by Hasbro.
JULEE C. (April 2016)- Julie is a bright, brave 12 year old girl from Northern Maine. Shortly after being born, Julee suffered full cardiac arrest and doctors learned that a birth defect needed immediate correction. Her aortic artery was too narrow to support critical blood flow to sustain life so doctors performed a surgery to save her life. Later, doctors would discover additional problems with Julee's heart. Multiple holes were found in her heart that would require very close monitoring. After many long years of procedures, follow-ups, testing and prayers, Julee is on the road to an expected full recovery.
Today, Julee is a happy (but shy) 6th grader who enjoys school and who's favorite subject is math! She loves horses, playing games and all the other cool things girls her age like. Taking the 10+ hour round trip from Northern Maine to the Pediatric Cardiac Center in Scarborough for follow-up care and testing/treatments can be a financial strain and a long, uncomfortable ride. But thanks to Angel Flight Northeast and Ellis River Riders, the fuel costs for a quick flight were taken care of by generous donations raised by the 2015 Murder Mystery Benefit Trail Ride.
Pictured here are Julee, her mom and Angel Flight Northeast volunteer pilot and ERR Member Tony Milligan.
JULIE R. (July 2016)- Julie began experiencing strange muscle weakness/failure symptoms this Spring. Doctors were puzzled and Julie was not anywhere close to finding answers until an MRI revealed a tumor in Julie's brain. Ironically, a team of Doctors and Specialists determined that the tumor was benign but discovered why she was experiencing the debilitating symptoms - Julie had the onset of ALS/Lou Gehrig's Disease. This terrible disease had no treatment or cure.
Julie learned of an experimental treatment program at Mass General Hospital in Boston and decided to apply for the trials. Early signs suggest that the experimental medication may be slowing the progression of the disease - a promising sign. While Julie cannot raise her arms higher than her chest and she has difficulty walking, Julie is a fighter and plans on working as long as she possibly can while committing to the trials in Boston. Living north of Bangor, the trip back and forth to Boston several times a month would be taxing both physically and financially for anyone. Thanks to Ellis River Riders and Angel Flight, that is one thing Julie doesn't have to worry about!
Pictured here is Julie and Angel Flight Northeast volunteer pilot and ERR Member Tony Milligan.