Best friends become pilots for the day

Houston Pirrung and Jack Kirkbride became pilots for a day.

The two best friends met while undergoing treatment at John Hopkins Hospital for leukemia. The Check 6 Foundation set the two aspiring pilots up to be a pilot for a day at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Their story has been featured in People, and ABC News.

12-year-old cancer survivor in remission becomes ‘Pilot for a Day’

By John Gonzalez -- ABC7

Twelve-year-old Carolyn Shaffer had a smile that would melt your heart as she arrived at Joint Base Andrews to be a "Pilot for a Day."

The adventure is that of a seasoned vet.

As a cancer survivor in remission, Shaffer was being honored on Friday in a very special way – a military way. She received her wings and patches and then took the controls of UH1 HUEY, flying a simulator through the streets of D.C.

"Fought a hard battle and is doing awesome. So she's an inspiration for everyone, so we want to celebrate that today," Lt. Colonel Rob Balzano said.

The Check-6 Foundation helped make the 12-year-old’s wish a reality.

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PILOT FOR A DAY EVENT: Honoring 12-year-old Carolyn Shaffer

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD, 5 April 2017 — The Check-6 Foundation has once again teamed with Joint Base Andrews to provide a once in a lifetime Pilot for a Day experience to a Maryland girl who has battled cancer and emerged victorious.

Carolyn Shaffer is 12 years old and resides in Davidsonville, Maryland – just outside Annapolis. A year ago, she was diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukemia (AML), a type of quick spreading cancer that starts in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. Immediately after being diagnosed, she began an aggressive treatment program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. With the loving support of her family, friends, and community, the treatment was successful! Miraculously, Carolyn has been in remission and

off treatment for 9 months. Along with her parents, Dave and Sara, she lives with her 4 siblings – Catherine (14), Anthony (9), Matthew (6) and Brigid (2). Carolyn is an incredible warrior, with an amazing spirit. The Check-6 Foundation will honor her strength, courage, and determination as a Pilot for a Day on April 28th. She is the 20th Pilot for a Day hosted at JB Andrews since its inception in 2004.

Lt Col Rob Balzano, a pilot in the DC Air National Guard has been coordinating the event for over 10 years. He founded the Check-6 Foundation in 2006 with the goal of expanding the Pilot for a Day program. “We are honored to share Carolyn’s story as an inspiration to other children battling cancer. Her story is one of relentless courage and amazing resiliency “, commented Balzano.

As an “honorary” pilot, Carolyn will be paired up with her “Wingman,” Lt Katelyn Potts – a KC-135 pilot with the 459th Air Refueling Wing. Guided by her Wingman and volunteers from numerous squadrons and organizations at Joint Base Andrews, Carolyn will don her own personalized flight suit, fly a UH-1 Huey simulator, tour multiple aircraft (such as the F-16,KC-135, and MD State Police helicopter) and participate in a variety of base demonstrations, including the K-9 unit, fire department, SWAT team, and air traffic control tower. Lunch is graciously provide by Check-6 partner, Mission BBQ of Annapolis. The day will culminate in a closing ceremony complete with some very special presentations. After the event, the family will enjoy an all-expense paid stay at the Gaylord National Harbor and dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s Steak and Seafood, thanks to an ongoing partnership with both businesses.

Each year, the Check-6 Foundation (, organizes and funds two Pilot for a Day events for seriously ill children. George Onyenyeonwu, retired Air Force Major, and Vice-President of Check-6 helps coordinate the events. “Being part of such an amazing team and witnessing how our foundation makes these children smile, motivates me to want to do even more for the family’s we support”, said Onyenyeonwu.

Check-6 is run entirely by volunteers, referred to as “Wingmen”, ensuring that 99% of funds raised through annual events, donations and corporate giving go directly to aid the children and veterans it serves. Their mission is to provide aid, assistance, experiences, purpose, inspiration and hope to children battling serious medical conditions and military veterans in need. This past year alone, they have provided over $45,000 in direct financial aid to those they support, living up to their tagline, “the Wingmen that have your back!”

For more information, please visit

Contact:, 862-CHECK6-6 (862-243-2566),



Check-6 Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit, CFC Approved Charity, and Approved to operate on JB Andrews. Tax ID#80-0461034.

Running for a cause: Air Force Reserve pilot raises money for ‘Pilot for a Day’ program

By Senior Airman Kristin Kurtz, 459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Friday, March 30, 2017 -- As members of the Air Force Reserve, Airmen are often asked, “how do you find time to balance your work-life, fitness requirements, volunteer efforts, and still have fun?” The task is not easy, but for a captain with the 756th Air Refueling Squadron, he’s found a way to make it all one and the same.

Captain Jason Burrows, a pilot with the 756th ARS, decided to take his love of running and combine it with his desire to help others by raising money for a local non-profit organization that hosts the Pilot for a Day program.

“We get so caught up in everything going on in the world and our personal lives that we forget there are sick children right here in our community that need our help,” said Burrows. “We have the ability to make a difference in that child’s life as well as their family’s.”

Burrows has run just 10 marathons during his lifetime but is planning on completing six more this year to raise money through donations from friends and family...

3rd Annual Charity Shooting Tournament Raises Over $6000!

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THANK YOU for another successful sport shooting tournament and fundraising event! With your help, we raised $6151 – surpassing the last 2 year’s shooting tournaments. We were honored to have two of our Pilot for a Day alumni there … Naomi and Kwami. It was a pleasure to hear from their parents and learn about the impact the Check-6 Foundation has made on their lives and that of their family. We look forward to helping even more children and veterans in need.

Congrats to this year’s tournament winners!

Overall Winning Team: LONGSHOTS (145 total hits)

Curtis C (34 hits)

Pat G (40 hits)

Gunnar C (38 hits)

Shelley H (33 hits)
Individual Winners:

Expert Class

1st Place: Bill H (44 hits)

2nd Place: Pat G (40 hits)

3rd Place: Bill H, Sr (38 hits)
Intermediate Class

1st Place: Rob H (25 hits)

2nd Place: Jon I (25 hits)

3rd Place: Mark P (24 hits)
Novice Class

1st Place: Suzy W (17 hits)

2nd Place: Shawn M (17 hits)

3rd Place: Joanne V (16 hits)

Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters and we look forward to having you all back next year for our 4th Annual Shooting Tournament!

Young boy battling cancer becomes pilot for a day

By Christy Goodman - Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, October 7, 2016 -- A Virginia boy put his cancer battle on hold to be a pilot -- just for a day -- at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Eight-year-old Kwami Penty of Falls Church, Virginia, has a rare malignant brain tumor, but on Thursday he took a break from chemotherapy for what would end up being a very special experience.

"It's really exciting, most spectacular thing I've ever done," Kwami told CNN affiliate WJLA.

He arrived at the base and met Maj. Cliff Taylor, of the D.C. Air National Guard, who would be his wingman for the day. Wearing his own green flight suit and matching green cap, Penty was then escorted in a Humvee to a welcoming ceremony. Service members gathered in the audience to see Kwami, his left hand raised, get sworn in as an honorary pilot.

"To see his courage and how he handles his situation and how he never puts on a sad face, certainly never in front of me, it's just a magical experience," said Taylor...

Virginia boy battling cancer gets to be ‘Pilot for a Day’

Virginia boy battling cancer gets to be 'Pilot for a Day'

By John Henry - WUSA

Thursday, October 6, 2016 -- A Northern Virginia boy got the experience of a lifetime Thursday at Joint Base Andrews.

Kwami Penty, 8, of Falls Church, Virginia, got to be "Pilot for a Day" at the base.

Penty was honored by the event at a pivotal time in his life. The young boy is battling a malignant brain tumor on his pineal gland.

"His courage, it's amazing," Major Cliff Taylor said.

As part of the special day, Penty got to fly in a flight simulator and explore the cockpit of a Maryland State Police chopper. He even got to learn hand-to-hand combat with the help of some service members.

Penty told WUSA9 that the event made him special.

"From all the kids, I got picked to do this," he said.

Va. boy battling cancer becomes pilot for day at Joint Base Andrews

By Suzanne Kennedy - WJLA Washington DC

Thursday, October 6, 2016 -- A Falls Church boy battling cancer got the opportunity to be a pilot for a day on Thursday at Joint Base Andrews.


Petty participated in a day of activities that included being sworn-in during a welcoming ceremony, riding in a Hummer, and having his own wingman for a day. He also flew a helicopter in a simulator on the base.