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The Sky Has No Limits

By Laura Beck

July 24, 2018 - The Able Flight scholarships of 2018 were awarded on Tuesday to six people with various backgrounds, united by a love of flying and a strong desire to challenge themselves despite various disabilities.

When Rob Shardy got the call that he had received the scholarship he said, “I stopped breathing.” The Canton, Ohio, resident said he’s happy to be part of the Able Flight Class of 2018. “It took me a second to collect myself to just say thank you,” he said.

Rob, 46, was paralyzed in a 2013 car crash. He said he’s loved flying “forever,” but before his accident there just never seemed to be the time or money to pursue his dream. He loved Star Wars as a kid and had a great uncle who was a Navy pilot on the USS Midway.

Rob joined four of his classmates — Kory Puderbaugh, Julia Velasquez, Asher Kirschbaum, and Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bartlett — at Theater in the Woods yesterday. The final member of the class, Emily Hupe, could not attend. Sponsors of Able Flight presented the recipients with their wings at the ceremony, as all earned their sport pilot certificates through the scholarship program.

The scholarship provides flight training and ground school in an intensive six- to seven-week course, said Charles Stites, founder of Able Flight. Able Flight works with Purdue University and Ohio State University to provide training. The class flies in the morning and evening and does ground school during the day, he said.

Asher, 23, is deaf. He taught his CFI sign language and instructor Andrew Geers taught him to fly.

“I love learning new things,” Asher said. He joined his classmates in saying that without the scholarship, he would likely not be able to pursue his dream of flying so soon in his life.

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