Networking group aims to help pilots who aid people in need
TEMPLE TERRACE - Cindy MacRitchie believes in the old adage, “what goes around comes around.” It's the reason she's coordinating a fundraiser for CAIR Flight on May 21 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on at Gaspar's Patio Bar & Grille, 8448 N. 56th St., Temple Terrace. Founded in 2004 by Rick Wachstein, CAIR Flight is a Tampa-based nonprofit corporation whose volunteer pilots use their own private planes to transport people of all ages to and from medical facilities throughout the Southeast for crucial and sometimes life-saving treatments and surgeries. It also unites family members with their loved ones in times of crisis and end-of-life situations.Over the years CAIR Flight pilots have flown more than a thousand missions, serving children, adults and wounded soldiers. They've been among the first responders in instances of natural disasters. Wachstein said the organization's primary objective is to eliminate obstacles such as time, distance and financial hardships for those in need. “We rely on private donations to do that,” he said, noting that while most pilots are more than willing to pay out of their own pockets for the fuel used during flights, operation and administrative costs come into play with each and every flight. Pilot Harry Marlewski, a longtime CAIR Flight volunteer, has had numerous passengers, “from babies to octogenarians.” “I do it because you get a tremendous feeling by helping these people out and I like to fly,” he said. Ed Golly, a former CAIR Flight Pilot of the Year, recalled a flight in which he transported a young girl who needed hip surgery to Orlando. “She was really talkative but people with life-threatening illnesses don't talk much,” he said. “I enjoy it but for me I started doing it more for selfish reasons because I thought it was a waste to keep the plane I co-own with a friend when neither of us flew it that much.” Wachstein is delighted about the upcoming event at Gaspar's, one that is open to the public as well as all members of the event's sponsor, Working Women of Tampa Bay, a networking group of ladies who have get-togethers throughout the year, not only to get acquainted but to also share resources. MacRitchie, owner/operator of Keeping the Balance, LLC, is a member of the organization. “I'm thrilled that as an organization of professional people they have a strong sense of community and care about social issues,” he said. Wachstein's good friend John Mutolo also has his pilot's license, but has not flown for CAIR Flight because he is not yet instrument-rated, a certification that is required of all its pilots. However, he has had the pleasure of flying on several missions with Wachstein. “Rick is such an amazingly giving person,” Mutolo said. “He's a guy who likes to pay it forward and make the world a better place.” While Gaspar's owner Jimmy Ciaccio is providing appetizers at no cost, the fee for Working Women of Tampa Bay members to attend the fundraiser is $5. Non-members are being asked to pay $10. Reservations can be made online at www.workingwomenoftampabay.com. Call MacRitchie at (813) 546-0027 for more information.