KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
As the first F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbird zoomed past the beach, the children flocked toward the barrier separating the flight path from the seating. Amazement struck across their faces as the Thunderbirds performed each aerial technique.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation offered children diagnosed with critical illnesses a chance to view U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds in action during their unique over-the-water practice demonstration on the beach in Biloxi, Mississippi, May 3, 2019.
Make-A-Wish is a non-profit organization that allows children to achieve some of their dreams and wishes. The organization has been running for 39 years granting different wishes like the Air Force Thunderbirds performance.
“An online application to become a Make-A-Wish child is filled out and submitted by the medical team of a child or a family friend,” said Cindy Kenny, Make-A-Wish volunteer. “After the child’s wish is approved the volunteers meet them.”
Equipped with beach mats, sunscreen and excitement, Make-A-Wish children and their families set up along the beach for the show to get a great view, choosing seats just inside the shade of a tent or setting chairs and mats along the sand.
Each time the aircraft would go out of view the children enjoyed the sand and played on the beach until one would point out the Thunderbirds coming back around. Truly seizing the day, the children found fun in every part of the show.
“It’s a unique opportunity for them and their families to come on base or to a show site without the general public there, so it takes out the stress of the crowds and waiting in line,” said Capt. Michelle Curran, #6 opposing solo U.S. Air Force Thunderbird.
When the show was over and the Thunderbirds arrived to meet the children, the children spoke enthusiastically about the show.
“It gets 100 stars,” said Drew Endsley, Make-A-Wish child with a genetic kidney disorder.
The Thunderbirds spoke and took pictures with the children and their families building long-lasting memories.
“It’s really an honor for us to sit down with a child one-on-one and look at the joy on their face and brighten up their day for at least a few hours because we know the struggles they’re going through outside of coming to our air show,” said Curran. “It’s one of my favorite parts of being on the team and I look forward to it every week.”