PSA Flight Attendant and Training Specialist Melanie Lopez participated in an event Nov. 12 that has left a lasting impression and created a path for a special group of families to better experience the joy of flying.
Lopez was part of a four-person crew that volunteered at the “It’s Cool to FLY American Airlines Wings for Autism” event at Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR). The program, hosted by Arc of South Carolina and featuring volunteers from MYR, American Airlines and TSA, provides families of children with Autism to experience a “flight” from start to finish.
“I have worked with special needs individuals for the past 11 years and they have the same ambitions in life as everyone else. They want to travel and see the world and have these new and exciting experiences that we have,” said Lopez. “What motivates me to work with this event is to be able to help them take that first step to achieving those goals and fulfilling those ambitions. It is so rewarding to see them build confidence in themselves and walk away from the event knowing that they can do this and there is an entire support system behind them cheering them on.”
Joining Lopez on the flight were Captain Jeremy West, Captain Kevin Ambrose and Flight Attendant Britt Roach. This is the second Wings for Autism event PSA employees have been part of this year. Assistant Director Airport Operations, Corporate Security and Emergency Response Sumanth Reddimalla attended on PSA’s behalf as well.
According to Lopez, the best part of the event is always the end, where the children and families have confidence knowing that they can take a flight and have support.
It is such a heart-warming and rewarding event to be a part of, Lopez said. “As the event was ending and all the passengers were deplaning, a mother stopped and looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, ‘This is the greatest thing we’ve ever done.’ “
“I am beyond grateful to have this experience and be a part of this event. It is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
About The Arc – The Arc advocates for and serves people with I/DD, including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of more than 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.