Photos courtesy of Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.
Patients from the pediatric rehabilitation program at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach soared over Long Beach last Wednesday, July 22, thanks to the Spirit of Suzi Discovery Program.
One at a time, patients were given the opportunity to climb in and fly airplanes over the Long Beach Marina and around Catalina Island with their families. Patients were taught basic safety rules before throwing on a headset to take on the role of co-pilot.
Mother Dominique Quevedo has two sons at Miller Children’s and was more than excited to see them both fly for the third time.
"This is going to be first time I fly, though my kids have had the privilege of doing so the last two years," she said in a statement. "I’m a little nervous, but I love seeing the confidence in my boys. The fact that this program lets them know they can do anything they want makes me so happy, and pushes them even further."
The event is donated to patients of Miller Children’s through the Discovery Program that was initiated 14 years ago, according to the release, to use activities like flying over Long Beach as tools to promote the physical, cognitive, social and emotional abilities of children with special needs.
Keith Furlong, manager of the Pacific Jet Center, has provided planes and licensed pilots for the Discovery Program since its inception. All pilots donate their time to the cause and give patients a detailed hands-on training. Many have been participating for more than a decade.
The bi-annual event grants patients something to look forward to, while the program as a whole gives patients the chance to foster new and unique memories and continued social interactions, despite a situation that might otherwise completely prevent them from doing so.
"It is the absolute pinnacle of their summer," said Quevedo added. "They would not have the opportunity to do otherwise. For them to not only be able to be in a plane, but fly it, is amazing."
According to Miller Children’s the program has helped more than 240 children since its beginnings and continues to serve as a source of comfort and encouragement for patients.
"The sky is the limit," said Mariana de Sena, C.T.R.S., recreational therapist at Miller Children’s, in a statement. "There is always something one can do, no matter what their ability level is."