WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (wLFI) - Grace landed in Linda Emery's life in the form of a small
airplane. Her mother Ethel Goldberg, 88, had a stroke in
Philadelphia. Emery wanted her closer so she could care for her,
but getting her from Philly to Lafayette proved challenging.
"We made arrangements with Home Hospital, but we didn't have a
way to transport her. She was too frail, to weak to fly or to go by
ambulance because it would be a 13 to 14 hours drive," explained
The average cost to transport a patient by air is about $15,000.
Grace On Wings is able to do it for about a third of the cost. It
charges for fuel, maintance, and insurance. All of the crew's time
"The whole program is funded by donations. All of us are
volunteers. None of us get paid to do this. We all have regular
jobs," said pilot Hal Blank.
The idea of a charity air ambulance came to Blank three years
ago on a medical mission trip to Peru.
"When we returned, we saw patients we didn't see before who were
nonambulatory, that didn't fit with in the profiles of insurance
companies for air ambulance transport and need medical monitoring
in route. There was no way to get the patient to where they needed
to be," he said.
Grace on Wings has flown 40,000 miles and given $300,000 in
charitable assistance to 40 patients. Based out of Indianapolis,
Hoosiers have priority. Emery said she'll always think of angels
when she sees plane wings.
"This is more than a blessing," she stated. "It's been pretty
much an amazing miracle."
"It gives us a great feeling of accomplishment as a crew to be
able to bring families together," said Blank.
Grace on Wings landed the family in West Lafayette, but Ethel
still needed to go to the hospital. Keeney Ambulance donated the
ride from the Purdue Airport to Home Hospital, which can also be a
"Anywhere between $400 to $1,000 depending on the level of
care," said Executive Director of Keeney Ambulance Service, Mike
Calls for help average between six and eight a day. With a large
need, Grace on Wings is only grounded for a short time before
taking off to bring hope to another family.
To qualify for Grace On Wings, patients must be traveling to
or from the Midwest, require medical monitoring during the trip,
and travel 150 miles or more. The group has 25 volunteers and 14
pilots. Grace On Wings hopes to be accredited for critical care and
to expand the program to other parts of the country.
Grace on Wings' plane, a Mitsubishi MU-2, is named "Nellie"
after parishioner Nell Wood of the First Presbyterian Church in
Frankfort who died and left money to the church. The church used
the money to hold Grace On Wings' plane with the broker until
financing for the aircraft to be purchased could be arranged. The
church asked the group to name the plane in memory of Wood and it