Happy Hooligans host Pilot for a Day
By Capt. Penny Ripperger, 119th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 18, 2010
Fargo, N.D. -- On Friday a young boy will get the chance to be the center of attention for the day as the Happy Hooligans host another 'Pilot for a Day' event at the 119th Wing. 'Pilot for a Day' is a cherished event organized by the North Dakota Air National Guard to honor a child who is fighting or has overcome a life-threatening illness or condition.
Sean Clementich, 9, from Devils Lake, N.D. will be the next special visitor to come to the base. Clementich was diagnosed with leukemia in August 2006 at the age of 5; he underwent treatment at Meritcare Children's Hospital (now Sanford Children's Hospital).
In October 2009 he stopped treatment and he has been cancer free ever since.
"We hope that this will be a memorable day for Sean. It's a day completely dedicated to him. Everyone here will do everything they can to make this brave boy feel as special as possible," Lt. Matt Aiken, 119th Wing C-21 Lear Jet pilot and event coordinator said.
"Not only do we want to make him a hero for the day, but also celebrate the fact that he has been cancer free for almost a full year," Aiken added.
Joining him on his special day will be his parents, Paul and Karen Clementich and his brother Blair, 7 and sister Erin, 7. In addition, his best friend Matthew will be spending the day with him and the Happy Hooligans.
The day will be jam-packed with surprises for Sean and since one of his passions is flying - the Happy Hooligans will make sure he has plenty of hands-on experience with the aircraft at the 119th Wing.
Some of the events scheduled include:
· Breakfast in the legendary 'Hooligan Frame Room' with the pilots and organizers
· Presentation of a flight suit made especially for Sean with an honorary commission to the rank of General
· Interactive base tour
· 119th Wing Fire Department tour
· C-21 Lear Jet demonstration
· Tour of the nearby Air Traffic Control Tower
· Pizza party at the Fargo Air Museum
The 'Pilot for a Day' program is not a new event for the Happy Hooligans; the unit has been organizing these events since 2005.
When the 119th Wing went through their mission transition from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to their new mission of the C-21 Lear Jet in 2007, the 'Pilot for a Day' program was temporarily put on hold due to the high operations tempo of the mission change.
"As soon as things started to settle down a bit and we had a chance to take a breath, we knew we had to get this program up and running again. Spending time with these incredible kids is just too rewarding for all of us here not do it," Aiken said.
In March, the 119th Wing hosted their first 'Pilot for a Day' since the unit began flying the C-21. During this event, Jordan Dvorak of Grand Forks, N.D., a 5-year-old who was diagnosed with leukemia last August spent the day at the 119th Wing with his family and friends.
The following local businesses sponsored this 'Pilot for a Day' event: Gate City Bank, Hornbachers, Pizza Hut, Holiday Inn, Fargo Air Museum, Space Aliens, Sanford Health Children's Hospital, Engraphix, J&L Sports and Mardon Nametag Company.
If a local business has any interest in contributing to future 'Pilot for a Day' events, contact Lt. Matt Aiken at 701-200-1383.