87th APS continues 38-year tradition with local hospital

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ethan Spickler
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airmen with the 87th Aerial Port Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, delivered $1,525 in monetary donations and $1,000 in toy donations to the Dayton Children’s Hospital Dec. 9, 2022.

“It’s actually really nice,” said Senior Master Brian Anders, 87th APS assistant manager, as he dropped off the donations. “We used to come up to the hospital a lot and drop off gifts to the kids. To see their faces just light up, it’s awesome, because they’re sitting in a hospital room there; they’re kind of segregated away from their friends and sometimes their families. So, whenever they see someone come in, especially in uniform, they’re like ‘[wow],’ and then they get presents and stuff, so that wakes them up a little be more. They love it.”

The squadron has had a unique connection to the hospital since 1981 when one of their Airmen, Tech. Sgt. Donald Newbauer and his wife Karen learned their son Vincent had been diagnosed with cancer.

They researched numerous facilities and treatment options before deciding Dayton Children’s Hospital was where their son would be treated. Unfortunately, Vincent lost his battle with cancer that year.

In 1984, Sergeant Newbauer and Master Sgt. Paul Webb, former 87th APS first sergeant, decided they wanted to do something to both commemorate the memory of Vincent and say thank you to the hospital. Members of the 87th APS donned their dress blues and went room to room, presenting gifts to the children.

Additionally, Karen dressed up as Santa and entertained the children and families, doing so until she was no longer physically able due to her fight with diabetes.

What began as a small token of appreciation blossomed into a squadron mission that has continued over the years. Lately, the pandemic has limited the ability of Airmen to visit the families in person, but they have still collected countless toys and monetary donations to show Airmen are still thinking of the children.

They hope to be able to visit in person again soon, but until then, they won’t stop doing what they can to brighten the holidays for the families at hospital.

“The awesome generosity from the community, to think of our kids and all the joy this brings,” said Kristy Greer, Dayton Children’s Hospital child life specialist. “This is the gift that gives all year. It is during the holidays for Christmas, but these are things we use for birthdays when kids are in the hospital for their birthday or end of treatments for hematology or oncology patients, and it’s just such generosity; it’s really uplifting.”

That sentiment is also felt at the squadron.

“The impact of having the privilege to care for these kids is evident,” said Chief Master Sgt. Rob Haye, 87th APS squadron superintendent. “If you do it one time, you’re hooked. We have so many young Airmen who step up and give, and it really makes me proud to see that legacy carry on.”

No matter the circumstances, for the past 38 years, members of the 87th APS have proudly continued this tradition of giving.

“The giving is the most important thing,” said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Rowe, 87th APS operations superintendent. “If we can give to the defenseless young people who are dealing with illness, fear and probably boredom; if we can put a smile on their faces, on their family’s faces and help them, even just for a moment, to forget about their worries, then we have demonstrated the spirit of the holidays.”

Their efforts have not only provided awareness and fostered healthy relationships with the community, but they have also set an example for the importance of bringing positivity and hope to those who need it the most. This impact is felt not only by the families but also by the squadron members themselves.

“We in the squadron benefit as well since this program demonstrates the heartfelt act of giving back to the most vulnerable in our community and shows our Airmen what it means to serve,” Rowe continued. “We have always, in all my years with the squadron, had overwhelming support and buy-in from our Airmen. It’s a sense of pride for me to see how much our Airmen care.”

(Ms. Amanda Dick contributed to this article.)