“You can ride in one of those!?” Fedner’s mind exploded as a new world of possibility unfolded.
Fedner sat in his third grade class, but his head was instantly in the air. As the pilot spoke to his class Fedner leaned forward, eyes wide with wonder: pilots sat in the front of the plane, called a cockpit. They hit some buttons and like magic, the plane would speed down the runway as its wheels slowly ascended off the ground and into the sky. In that moment, it was decided. Fedner wanted to be a pilot.
Five years later, at 13, Fedner’s passion hadn’t wavered. A carefully curated Lego plane and airport was proudly displayed on his bedroom nightstand at Lighthouse Children’s Home. When he wrote letters to his sponsor, Will, he talked of taking flight. After visiting Fedner this past August, Will hatched a plan to make Fedner’s next birthday one he would always remember.
The December day began like so many others. Fedner rolled out of bed and dressed. As he was finishing his eggs and bacon, the door opened. In walked Back2Back staff member, Wadson. He smiled widely at Fedner and motioned him over. Fedner dropped his fork and ran to his friend.
“Today’s a special day, Fedner. We’re going out to celebrate your 14th birthday!”
It wasn’t every day Fedner left the children’s home. He sprinted to his room, grabbed his sneakers and was back to the front door in a flash, hopping as he tried to run and put on his left shoe at the same time.
“Where are we going?” Fedner asked, finally slipping into his black sneaker.
Wadson smiled. “You’ll see, my friend. You’ll see.”
Fedner’s brow wrinkled in delight. He wondered where they were going, but he was up for the surprise. He jumped in the Jeep with Wadson and they sped down the gravel driveway.
When the airport came into view, Fedner’s dark eyes lit up. He stared at the long, black runways and shiny propeller planes. Fedner couldn’t wait to get a closer look at the planes. Maybe he could even peek inside!
Fedner still didn’t know what the plan was as they walked towards the white six-seater plane. The pilot waved and motioned them inside. Fedner hopped in and peered around as Wadson stood by the door.
“Fedner, grab a seat and buckle in. Today, we’re heading to the sky.”
Fedner looked dumbfounded. He laughed out loud, threw his arms around Wadson and settled into the seat next to the pilot. He pulled on a headset, ran his fingers across the cream-colored leather seat and watched the pilot’s every move as they prepared for take-off. Fedner was quiet during the flight. Words weren’t necessary. His gigantic grin lit up the tiny plane interior.
At one point, he looked at Wadson and spoke into the headset microphone, “How is this possible?”
“It was a gift from Will,” Wadson explained.
Fedner smiled and turned back to gaze out the window. “Thank you, Will,” he whispered.
Fedner flew to Jacmel, a city on the southern coast of Haiti before returning to the airport in Port-au-Prince. After landing, he thanked the pilot and exited the plane with Wadson. As the two drove home to Lighthouse, Fedner was still beaming. In the days that followed, he told everyone—whether or not they were willing to listen—what he had done, the things he had seen, and the person who had made it possible.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be a pilot,” he explained, “Now I know I can do it! It can really happen!”