By Christian Holtz
Organization, good weather and the generosity of others all helped to create a successful event for the Washington Pilots Association’s 13th consecutive toy drive and fly-out to western Washington airports on December 17. The campaign, a joint effort of four WPA chapters, supports the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s annual Toys for Tots program while promoting general aviation’s benefits to the community. This year’s event took place on the 102nd anniversary of the Wright Brothers historic flight.
Under cold, clear, severe VFR skies, pilots from the Greater Seattle, Green River, Paine Field and Harvey Field chapters of the WPA congregated Saturday morning in Galvin Flying’s large hangar at Boeing Field to get their assignments from event organizer Colleen Turner, vice president of the Greater Seattle chapter. They then took off in their small planes, with most pilots flying a U.S. Marine as a passenger.
Easterly winds blowing 40 knots at 2,000 feet prevented the formation of fog anywhere, but did make for crosswind landings at some area airports. All pilots, however, were able to collect approximately 1,000 toys (including two bicycles) from barrels WPA members had placed at airport businesses throughout Puget Sound.
“We had barrels at nine airports,” said Turner. “There are many businesses at those airports, so we probably had 25 total barrels out there.”
Turner, a California transplant, arrived here at the end of August and says she brought the sun with her. She had been secretary of the statewide California Pilots Association. The first thing she wanted to do after arriving here was get involved in Washington’s pilot community.
“This ‘job’ of being the Toys for Tots organizer was open, so I just jumped into it,” said Turner. “It was a good way of jumping into the pilot community.”
Though this is her first WPA toy drive, Turner knows well the role pilots can play.
“The whole idea is to expand the coverage of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program,” she said. “Because we have airplanes, we can go further and fill barrels at locations that are farther away. We help the Marines expand their coverage.”
John Amico, WPA Greater Seattle chapter president, who flew to Bremerton with his 12-year-old son Michael and U.S. Marine Lance-Corporal Clayton Parks, praised Turner’s efforts in organizing the event.
“If it weren’t for people like Colleen, with the dedication and inspiration that she has, events like these wouldn’t be near as successful,” he said. “She did a great job.”
The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve personnel who participated in the toy drive and fly-out were Parks, Corporal Ryan Durkin, Sergeant Mike Arrington, Private First Class Daniel Kaufman and Private First Class Emily Sligar.
Pilots who availed themselves and their planes were Amico, Dale Terwedo, Daryl Hickman, Al Banholzer, Bob Dempster, Larry Holtz, Bob Holt, Jim Davidson, Fred Jossy, Drew Anderson and K.C. Smith. Those helping on the ground included Esther Banholzer, Nancy Jensen and Tom Jensen, who, together with Joe Bryant, went around Boeing Field collecting toys from airport businesses.
Galvin Flying hosted the event. Turner said her Galvin contact, Scott Jefvert, was very helpful.
The mission of the Washington Pilots Association is to advance the interests of general aviation in Washington through advocacy, outreach, education and social activities.
For more information on the WPA, visit [http://www.wpaflys.org].