One thousand feet of social distancing brought Andover youth Jake Falk closer than ever to friends and community last week. When Above the Clouds (ATC), a 501(c)3 non-profit, postponed Jake’s scheduled Dream Flight due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided to offer him a different type of aviation experience in the interim, just in time for his 10th birthday. ATC volunteer and Norwood Firefighter Paul Ronco then reached out to Andover firefighters and police, who generously joined in to make Above the Clouds’ planned Dream Flyover a full ground-to-air friendship flight.
On Flyover Day, an ATC volunteer from Westwood quietly wrote chalk messages in Jake’s driveway, while another waited across the road to take photos. Jake’s friends decorated family cars with their parents. ATC Dream Pilot Stuart Auerbach drove from Dover to Bedford Airport to fly his helicopter Andover. After hovering above the Andover Central Fire Station, Stuart then followed Local 1658 firefighters Eric Teichert, John Hines, John Gangi, Joe Murphy and David Pas as they drove two fire trucks down Chestnut Street to meet up with Jake’s friends. As they heard the helicopter approaching, they rode behind Andover police on motorcycles and in cruisers, for a surprise past Jake’s house.
Jake’s friend, Nathan, pointed his trombone out the car window to play "Happy Birthday" as police sirens, fire horns, and helicopter rotors joined a chorus of greetings. Other friends from Andover and Boxford drove by to offer their support with cheers, balloons and birthday signs. Dream Pilot Stuart circled his bright red helicopter 1000 feet above, while his wife, Marilyn, snapped unique photos of the celebration from the co-pilot seat. Jake spoke to Stuart via cell phone as he watched him fly overhead. From the ground to the sky, caring and good will surrounded Jake and his family for a very special 10th birthday.
Above the Clouds (ATC) is a one-of-a-kind grassroots organization that brings joy and hope through the wonder of small aircraft flight to children facing serious adversity. Its flexible program continuum offers everything from a one day “Dream Flight”, to an aviation-focused mentor program, to a full mentorship program with free certified flight instruction. ATC has flown more than 500 youth since 2013.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ATC is offering Dream Flyovers for children whose Dream Flights have been postponed. When ATC resumes Dream Flights, Jake will ride in the co-pilot seat of a small aircraft and actually take the controls of the plane. ATC flights provide kids who face adversity with a joyful respite from daily challenges, a view of a world wide with possibility, and an infusion of hope to pursue their dreams.