By Michael Graves, member of the Rotary Club of Plainview, Texas, USA, past district governor, and world president of the International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians
In the summer of 1990, while I was in Washington and Oregon with my young family, I made some new friends, members of the International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians, who became an extended family to me.
These Rotary members who shared a passion for flying inspired me to realize some of my own personal dreams and make family flights to Barrow, Alaska, and Guayaquil, Ecuador. Ocean-crossings followed, first to France, later to New Zealand, and then Australia. Adventures with fellow Rotary members in Europe and Africa and Asia came to be recorded in my logbooks.
Weeks before Christmas in 1990, I lent aviation support to my district’s service projects within the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in western Mexico. We landed on a dirt strip 7,500 feet above sea level with a plane loaded with Christmas presents. Father Luis VerPlanchen accepted the gifts for the Native American Tarahumara children in Creel, Chihuahua, and proudly showed us the clinic, hospital, and church he had built.
The hospital had a broken X-ray generator which my mentor Ted Holder figured we could replace.Two months later, we again landed on that mountaintop runway, delivering the equipment that restored diagnostic radiology to Creel. En route to that stop, we landed on a grass runway in Madera to greet dedicated Rotarians and offer them some used defibrillators we had been given when we purchased the radiology equipment.
I received a letter from the president of the Madera Rotary Club six weeks later explaining that thanks to our gift, two of seven patients carried into the local hospitals with no pulse had been able to walk out. The letter affirmed the rewards of service that we who share Rotary and aviation can offer.
Editor’s note: This post first appeared on the Rotary Service Connections blog in honor of Rotary Fellowships Month. Learn more about Rotary Fellowships and the International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians.