Summit Aviation’s Annual Cancer Survivor Flight Camp returned for its 9th year in July. The camp was begun in 2014 by Summit Aviation’s president, Ben Walton, to help young cancer survivors move on after treatment.
During this camp, which happens the week of July 17-21, four young adult cancer survivors — Andrew, Sophi, Hunter and Courtney- will take to the skies over Montana for a five-day flying adventure. Summit holds the camp out of its headquarters at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. Held in partnership with Eagle Mount Bozeman, the camp’s participants are selected through Eagle Mount’s Big Sky Kids program. Throughout the course of the week each camper will accumulate over ten hours of actual flight time in Summit’s state-of-the-art Diamond training aircraft. “The campers are always amazed by how much actual flying they get to do,” says Walton.
The annual Flight Camp is completely donor funded with meals being supplied by local restaurants and grocery stores. “It’s really cool to see the community come together to support this program,” said Walton. “It takes a lot of very generous people to make this happen every year and it’s really exciting to see everyone come together to make it possible.”
In addition to their daily flights around Montana, the campers get to spend the afternoons exploring rarely seen areas of the airport like the air traffic control tower, FBOs, private hangars and commercial airline operations. The week culminates in a cross-country flight to Driggs, Idaho, during which the campers get to fly over Yellowstone National Park and see the Grand Tetons.
For these young cancer survivors Flight Camp is much more than just an adventure camp. As past camper Martín (2021) put it, many of our campers are “struggling to find their place in the world” after so much uncertainty. For those who have had to live just one day at a time, the future is an ambiguous prospect. Flight Camp opens a whole new world of opportunity for these young survivors. Suddenly anything is possible again. If they can fly a plane, they can do anything! That powerful realization leaves each participant with a new sense of self, achievement, and confidence in their abilities.