On a chilly October day, a group of high fliers had to put their competitive drive aside and work with others to complete the task. Just like in real life.
Eight teams made up of pilots, flight paramedics, flight nurses and mechanics were challenged to build a bike. Not exactly a life-and-death scenario this group is trained to handle, but their teamwork made life a little better for eight lucky children who received a new ride.
Hosted at the Aero Med base at the Big Rapids airport, Safety Day covers required annual safety training for the Aero Med teams. Topics included safety culture, emergency egress from aircraft, survival skills and fire safety.
Now in its third year, part of the day’s program focused on developing relationships between the bases, located 140 miles apart.
In 2016, Aero Med Spectrum Health formed a joint venture with Munson Healthcare to create North Flight Aero Med with a base in Traverse City. Combined, they staff a helicopter in Grand Rapids and a helicopter and airplane in Traverse City, completing about 1,200 flights each year.
“My team cares for and transports the ‘sickest of the sick’ patients,” said Aero Med director Tiffany Obetts. “Our mission is to provide critical care air transport to the communities of west and northern Michigan. Therefore, when we work together, we can do great things for our communities.”
And teamwork is just what it took to gift area children with bicycles.
Each team had to solve puzzles to earn bike parts to begin assembly. The teams quickly discovered they had different color parts and sometimes duplicate parts. Only after collaborating with other teams and trading parts were they able to finish the job.
“The bike exercise was a lot of fun,” Aero Med flight nurse Michael O’Toole said. “I was treating it more like a competition in the beginning, until you found out that you couldn’t do that if you were going to accomplish your goal.”
Shortly after they completed their mission of building bikes, the teams had another surprise. Children walked into the Big Rapids airport hangar to pick out a new bike.
“That was awesome,” O’Toole said.
Zailya Romine, 6, said it was fun choosing her bike, although it is a little big for her.
“I’ll grow into it,” she said. “I liked the helicopter. Thanks again for my bike.”
“It felt good for the kids to be involved,” said Zailya’s mother, Rebecca Henderson of Reed City. “It made them feel special. They’re excited. The bikes are really nice.”
Jessica Whitehead, clinical operations manager for Aero Med, enjoyed the event.
“It was a great day to have both our Grand Rapids and Traverse City teams come together to talk about safety and build bikes for children in our community,” Whitehead said. “The kids’ faces were priceless. My passion is air medicine and I love helping children, so I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this experience.”
“We have many members of the team still getting to know each other because of the distance between our bases,” she said. “We wanted to create an experience where they could collaborate to do something positive for the community and have some fun in the process.”