JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. –
Joint Base Andrews welcomed 8-year-old Elias “Eli” Tadli, as the 31st Pilot for a Day participant from the Check-6 Foundation today.
The Check-6 Foundation, a non-profit foundation, organizes and funds the Pilot for a Day events for children with serious medical conditions twice a year at JBA. This is the first time Pilot for a Day has occurred in more than 2 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Check-6 mission is to provide aid, inspiration, experiences, purpose, and assistance to both ill children and military veterans in need. The foundation is entirely run by volunteers, ensuring that over 98% of the funds go directly to those in need.
Since 2016, Eli has battled multiple health challenges, such as a central nervous system tumor called atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT), a group of cancers called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and a chronic graft-versus-host disease of the lungs and skin. He is from Jefferson, Md., where he lives with his mother, Jennifer Knox, his father, Joe Trautman, and his sister, Sarah. Eli loves sports, especially football, basketball, and soccer. He also is a big Star Wars fan.
“We have only been to the hospital and home over the last two years,” said Trautman. “This is more than we imagined.”
The day began at the base theater with Eli receiving two stars from Maj. Gen. Joel Jackson, Air Force District of Washington commander, making him the highest ranking officer for the day.
“Sharing our base with Eli and his family today is a privilege,” said Jackson. “He is a local boy who has so much strength, and his enthusiasm for what we do here at Joint Base Andrews is inspiring to us all."
Eli had the opportunity to spend time with flying and support squadrons, allowing him to get up close and personal with aircraft.
Eli visited multiple base agencies, seeing military, emergency services and state police displays of aircraft as well as emergency vehicles with his wingman, Master Sgt. Jesse McCarley, 113th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment flight chief.
“Being with this program and taking care of kids like Eli means the world to me,” said McCarley. “It’s not every day you get to make a kid’s dream come true, and being a part of that is something that words can’t really describe.”
Eli boarded a KC-135 Stratotanker with his mother and father, and sat in the cockpit. He was able to maneuver a camera in a Maryland State Police helicopter and partake in a K-9 working dog demonstration. Eli tried on aircrew flight equipment and learned to “fly” in an F-16 Fighting Falcon flight simulator, after seeing the F-16 static display. He was also able to “fly” by using a UH-1N helicopter simulator with the 1st Helicopter Squadron.
“He doesn’t get to do a lot of normal kid stuff,” said Knox. “So when he gets to do really cool stuff like this, it’s special.”
Eli’s day ended after receiving gifts from squadrons around the base and from the Check-6 Foundation.
“Seeing the smile on his face – that’s what makes all of it worth it,” Trautman said.