Monday, January 17, 2022

DECA Freedom Flight

Submitted Photo | Here are from Left to Right, Jason Hoenig- Treasurer, Whitney Gobiel- Co-President, Chris Crawford- Co-President, Nicole Geddis – Secretary, Not pictured Nathan Lorenz- Vice President.

On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island. Irma was a devastating storm and the most severe for our island since 1960 when Hurricane Donna came on the same day in September and on the same resolute track. The canals, the bays, and even much of the Marco River became dry when wind speeds and gusts howled above 160 miles-an-hour, but for our island, blessings and prayers were answered when the back half of Irma spared much of the flooding and devastation unleashed on many of the Caribbean islands in the week before.

When Hurricane Dorian was on his determined and steadfast march this last September, we were all feeling the storm fear and anxiety as Marco Islanders were once again in the hurricane forecast cone. This time, however, our neighbors to the east in Marsh Harbor, Abaco, and many of the others in the Bahama island archipelago were in the alleyway of ruin.

When the storm was finally past and the first horrific images came through over the internet and television media, there was a great sadness for the 65 deaths, the bomb-like destruction, and the hundreds that were missing. There was also, however, a spark of hope, generosity and determination from the Lely High School DECA club to reach out and kindle help and hurricane relief.

DECA is an international business club formed in 1946. The club has hundreds of thousands of members worldwide, and hosts competitions in which students enter in five different categories: entrepreneurship, finance, business management, marketing, and hospitality and tourism. The club helps build financially literate students and coaches’ respective careers. Each year, the Lely Deca group chooses a charity project and after learning of the death and devastation that occurred in the Bahamas after category five Hurricane Dorian, it was easy for the Lely students to decide which community project to serve. 

After the passage of Dorian, and for the next three weeks, the Lely DECA Club and their helpers and advisors were on a determined march, pathway and mission of their own. They began collecting and shopping for canned goods, toiletries, water, diapers, Gatorade and other vital necessities.

DECA teacher and advisor Adam Peterson’s classroom became the depot and storage facility for the first collection of Dorian relief supplies. Soon afterward, the DECA members were invited to Sharon and Bill Fiedler’s home for a donation drive in which many philanthropic volunteers came by and delivered more supplies and generous checks to help with the mission. 

The next obstacle was how to deliver the relief supplies and soon Alan Davis; the Lely Aviation teacher offered his Cessna 182 airplane for the Hurricane freedom flights that would have former Lely High school graduate Andi Miller as a pilot. Fuel for the plane came from other generous donations, and Andi offered donated her talent, time and skill for the two-hour flight from the Naples Airport to Treasure Kay and then another flight plan for Abaco Bahamas.

News of the flights took off on Facebook and other social media, and the DECA club members were soon on the Naples airport tarmac packing the plane with the supplies that were gathered, and well-wishing Andi Miller Bon Voyage for both of her flights out and over the Atlantic. 

Many seniors scoff at the youth of today, just as the seniors of yesteryear criticized the students of generations before. “That’s not music,” grandfathers and grandmothers of yesteryear exclaimed about, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones, “That’s just loud amplifiers, guitars and drums. That’s nothing like Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. These kids of today with the long hair and peace signs are selfish. They don’t know or respect anything!”

Throughout all the years and generations before ours, there have always been those who disproved of virtually everything new and the latest trends of the youth standing before them, but now perhaps is a time to reflect on the similarities between the past, present and future of everyone.

The everlasting spark of goodwill, the kindling of the fire to eliminate the darkness of tragedy, and the path that DECA Club members have shown this year goes straight back to the beginning of civilization and one of the best lessons for all generations. 

If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within in the land that the lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it be: Deuteronomy 15:7-8

The bright and inspiring light that DECA members Chris Crawford, Nicole Geddis, Whitney Gobiel, Jason Hoenig, Nathan Lorenz, Sam Nemeth, Moddy Campeau, Reese Bonfitto and Mia Witshoff have shown will always shine like a beacon, along with their talented and generous assistants Andi Miller, Adam Peterson, Alan Davis, Sharon and Bill Fiedler and especially Bonnie Zaikov the coach and counselor.

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