A Texoma pilot gives his time, talents and resources to help medical patients get the specialized care they need. He donates trips through the nonprofit organization, Angel Flights. His generosity is what makes him our pick for this months' Newschannel 6 Community Service Champion. These volunteer flights are a big commitment. They can take up most of the day and be very expensive. But, for Schuele, the sacrifice is nothing compared to the reward he gets knowing he's helping his fellow Texomans receive treatment they need.
"I have met the most wonderful and thankful people because we can get them to the treatment they need they may not otherwise have access to and they're just very thankful and appreciative," Schuele said.
Schuele has a military background and continues to teach pilots at Sheppard Air Force Base. This is part of why he wanted the opportunity to once again fly for a mission, and Angel Flights seemed like the perfect fit. The organization arranges transportation for people with medical needs outside their hometown.
"There is no cost to the patient whatsoever. It's volunteer pilots, volunteer mission coordinators, volunteer people on the ground that drive them to treatment facility of need. We do this because we want to help the patient get that treatment," Schuele said.
The day we met with Schuele at Kickapoo Downtown Airport, a Wichita Falls couple was actually heading out on their first Angel Flight.
"I thought there has to be a catch, but there is absolutely no cost to us," Chad Nelson said.
He is a Wichita Falls police officer. For the past ten years, his wife has been making the road trip to M.D. Anderson in Houston for cancer treatments.
"It's a six and a half hour drive so about $150-$200 in gas," Nelson said.
Many people have to make the trip several times a year. Like most patients, Nelson said there's no way they could afford that many commercial flights a year.
"We can make the trip a lot quicker because we can go into smaller airports and go to airports close to the patient's home, so you don't have to go to a big hub like Dallas or municipal airport and catch a commercial flight," Schuele said.
Angel Flights not only save patients time and money, but makes the travel experience easier on patients who are already going through enough.
" In our situation, my wife is doing great and she is on the upward swing, but for these patients who are deathly ill, to not have to ride in a car for hours at a time, it's fantastic," Nelson said.
Sometimes, they go out of the way just to help patients in other communities. The pilot flying the Nelsons came from Arlington to pick them up.
"Most of us work regular jobs and just schedule around it or take vacations or do it on the weekend," Schuele said.
Angel Flights is a nationwide network of generous men and women who have found a way to use their talents and love for the sky to help those who need it most.
"It's a very good feeling. You're directly involved. It's one of the most rewarding things I've done," Schuele said.
"We thank you for your time and efforts in putting this together for us," Nelson said.
Patients and pilots must meet certain requirements to participate in Angel Flights. For more information, click here.
Newschannel 6 is recognizing one person each month who goes above and beyond in our community. Then, this November we will hold a banquet honoring those chosen and we will announce our Community Service Champion of the year. If you know someone who is deserving, click here. You can also e-mail us at email@example.com