The Saturday evening helicopter flights were done to benefit sufferers of neurofibromatosis, a disease that causes tumors to grow inside and outside the body. For young Kenny Loken of Juneau, they grow behind his eyes and for the past three years doctors have had to remove the tumors so they don't damage his brain. Kenny returned from a 6 1/2 hour surgery in Seattle four days before the benefit flights took place.
Coastal Helicopters provided 10-minute flights over the valley in the early evening for folks to get a look at the Christmas lights. The cost was $25 donation per passenger. During the three hours the helicopters operated, around 215 people participated and there were several straight cash donations. More than $5,500 was donated to neurofibromatosis.
The Saturday flights were donated by Coastal Helicopters, which provided the helicopters; Coastal's pilots, who donated their time and skills; Coastal Fuel and Petro Marine, which proved the fuel; and airport small aircraft operators, who received the donations, briefed passengers, loaded and unloaded the helicopters. None of these people or businesses received a dime in compensation.
Coastal Helicopters, its pilots and the other businesses have done these flights nearly every year for 10 years. It takes three hours one Saturday each year to help some very sick kids get treatment, or go to camp, or to provide research funds to try to stop this dreadful disease.
I live in the valley and was home that evening. I barely noticed the helicopters and was not in the least disturbed - just grateful these sick kids have so many folks interested in their welfare.