Ten years ago, San Juan Island resident Vicky Thalacker founded the the Eagles program. Local pilots volunteer to fly cancer patients and their caregivers to mainland treatment centers. The flights reduce the time patients spend away from home from an all day trip to 2.5 hours.
Thalacker still coordinates the flights of the 20 active pilots who are flying approximately 200 missions a year.
Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 Friday Harbor Mayor Carrie Lacher issued a Proclamation declaring Saturday, February 18th as "San Juan Eagle’s Day" in the Town of Friday Harbor.
"I am pleased to honor the San Juan Eagles for their significant contribution to the citizens of Friday Harbor," Mayor Lacher said. "The San Juan Eagles exemplify what our community is all about, neighbor helping neighbor."
Soroptimists of Friday Harbor brought the Eagles 10th Anniversary to the attention of Mayor Lacher also a Soroptimist. Since 2004 Soroptimists have helped San Juan Island cancer patients' families by providing free ferry tickets and on bad weather days commercial flights for cancer patients.
A significant portion of money raised by Soroptimists is set aside for this project. In 2011 the costs were $15,679 raised by Soroptimists fundraising events.
Thalacker, herself a pilot, was inspired to start the program after helping transport a friend who battled cancer for 28 years. She considers this work a blessing as she is able to help others while doing something she loves.
Thalacker called a group of private pilots in the San Juan Pilots Association and formed a group of 16 volunteer pilots. They held their first meeting in 2002.
Eagle pilots volunteer their time, pay for the fuel and maintenance for their planes.
Patients and their families are often overwhelmed by the costs of treatment and this assistance is a ray of hope in these emotional and difficult times. As many letters of gratitude from patients read "This service is really wonderful and it helps so much to know my community cares."
Any island flight is filled with beauty and a serenity that can only be ethereally healing for a patient in that kind of stress. The people of Friday Harbor offer a heartfelt thank you to the San Juan Eagles.
Donations are accepted:
San Juan Eagles welcome contributions through Vicky Thalacker: firstname.lastname@example.org
Soroptimist Liz Illg coordinates the Soroptimist Ferry Ticket Program: email@example.com