Local pilots lift non-profits’ spirits


Photo credit: Frank Russo Presenters and recipients of donation checks recently delivered at Skypark Airport are, from left: Ron Price, airport manager; Jeanette Woods, EAA Chapter 1268 vice president; Kathy Witkowicki, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance executive director; Walt Lewis, Air Explorer Post 1268 advisor; and David Meeks, Skypark board of directors president. Kneeling are: Air Explorer members Troy Hewett, Garrett Porter and Davis Crawford.

With so many of Sonoma Valley’s non-profit organizations in need in 2011, local businesses, community volunteers and youth supporters spread good will at year’s end.

One such public-spirited group is Sonoma Skypark Airport, a privately owned, public-use airport whose members work hard to promote myriad aviation activities for young people to help them gain education and confidence, build character and fulfill sometimes-tough goals.

This year Skypark aviators, a mix of retired commercial pilots, aircraft designers and engineers, experimental airplane builders and recreational pilots, steered their attention to a pair of Valley non-profits that focus on serving elementary-through-high-school students.

Through fundraising at the annual Skypark Family Fun Day in summer, Skypark volunteers raised $2,400 and divided it into two donations of $1,200 each to the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance and Skypark’s Aviation Exploring Post 1268.

For many in the aviation program this is their only one-on-one contact with pilots and a chance to get into the air.

“The kids study aviation and navigating, work on restoring airplanes and learn by taking fieldtrips to different airports, air museums, and some even going to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the annual international aviation exhibition,” said Walt Lewis, Aviation Exploring Post 1268 Advisor. “Part of exploring is developing good kids who will be good adults.”

The Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, founded 15 years ago by Executive Director Kathy Wikowicki, has seen students coming to the airport monthly for the past 12 years, and is a vital organization supporting hundreds of local youths.

“We were thrilled to be a recipient of Skypark’s wonderful fun day for kids and their families. Mentoring is more than school-based activities,” Wikowicki said, “We’re trying to provide opportunities for new experiences for kids to come out of their shell … the more the relationship between mentor and mentee develops the more that partnership lasts. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Skypark is located at 21870 Eighth Street East. Contact 938.3380 or Sonomaskypark.com.


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