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Joint Base Andrews News

NEWS | Oct. 7, 2016

JBA honors child as ‘Pilot for a Day’

By Senior Airman Jordyn Fetter 11th Wing Public Affairs

The day was filled with smiles and excitement as Kwami Penty, an 8-year-old diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, became a “Pilot for a Day” and partook in an in-depth tour of Joint Base Andrews, Oct. 6, 2016.

The event, sponsored by the Check-6 Foundation, occurs biannually here to indulge children from Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who are battling serious illnesses in their interest in aviation. Each child is deemed an honorary pilot and experiences a number of different activities around base.

“Kwami is the 19th child we’ve had here for this program,” said Lt. Col. Robert Balzano, 201st Airlift Squadron C-40 pilot. “It’s a joy for everyone here to be able to do this for the family and provide Kwami with some happiness.”

With his family in tow, Kwami entered the opening ceremony wearing a custom flight suit and was welcomed with the presentation of a personalized name tag.

Guided by his wingman, Maj. Cliff Taylor, 201st Airlift Squadron pilot, Kwami spent an entire day visiting base agencies, flying in aircraft simulators, viewing aircraft static displays, and participating in demonstrations by the Special Weapons and Tactics team, air traffic control tower and security forces K-9 unit.

“The simulator was really cool when he could sit behind [the cockpit] and really feel like he was flying over Washington, D.C.,” said Stephanie Penty, Kwami’s mother. “I’m sure that will be memorable for him.”

For many participants of this program, including Kwami and his family, this is their first time on a base and interacting with military members.

“This is a really unique experience and [Kwami] is very excited and happy to be here,” Stephanie said. “I’ve always been interested in coming here and I didn’t even think we’d be able to someday. We’re getting an up close look at the aircraft and are able to learn more about them.”

The event closed with the presentation of a helmet bag filled with gifts and a check from the foundation to assist the family with medical bills. Following the event, Kwami and his family made their way to National Harbor, Md., for an all-expense paid stay and dinner.

“It brings me tremendous joy just to bring a smile to this kid’s face and his family,” said Maj. Tommy Shea, 11th Wing deputy inspector general. “This event is a great experience for these kids to be able to leave their troubles behind and have fun.”