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2023 EAA Volunteer of the Year Recipients

July, 2023 — The 2023 EAA Volunteers of the Year have been announced, and this year’s winners highlight why and how AirVenture is possible. This year, there are three Volunteer of the Year recipients: Cliff Chetwin, Sandy Zorn, and Robert McLaughlin. The recipients were honored at a ceremony on Sunday afternoon at Volunteer Park.

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Cliff Chetwin grew up in upstate New York, near present-day Syracuse, and attended the College of Forestry at Syracuse. He worked as a police officer in Washington, D.C., during the Vietnam War and was an officer in California when he and his wife moved there. After that, Cliff received a job as a ranger with Pinnacles National Monument, and then he attained his private pilot certificate and an instrument rating and flew recreationally. In 1982, Cliff transferred to Carlsbad Cabins National Park in New Mexico. He was chief ranger and then regional aviation manager. He got involved with EAA while still working with the park service and spoke about major political issues within the aviation world. He helped create the International Federal Partnership, which is in Hangar D. Cliff is also a volunteer chairman at AirVenture and is on the government host team for Sean Elliott.

“It is awesome to be recognized by one’s peers. I hope I can stay at the same level for a lot more years to justify having gotten the award this year,” Cliff said. “I think of awards like this as an award for what we now expect you to do in the future. So, I got to figure a way to keep it up.”

EAASandy Zorn was born and raised in Wisconsin and is a rock star regarding her family and volunteering. Her husband has his pilot certificate, so being with him, she and her kids have had much experience flying. Sandy and her husband would fly around Green Bay and Wausau for lunch outings and quick errands. Sandy got the volunteer itch when she and her husband were at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh one year, and they looked at each other and said, “Maybe we could do more.” They both started in First Aid with EAA as EMTs and then moved to volunteer with public parking, shuttles, and transportation. Along with Sandy, her family also contributes to volunteering in this area. Her children, husband, and even son-in-law help every year.

“I am considered being recognized by EAA more for the whole tram group than just myself because we work as a team,” Sandy said. “Because if it was not for the people that volunteered to help us out and for our core group of five people, we could not get anything done.”

EAARobert McLaughlin was born in Massachusetts, but because his dad was in the Air Force as an engineer gunner, trained on B-29s, and eventually went on to the KC-97, Robert moved around a lot. This was the beginning of his aviation interest. After high school, Robert received a draft notice from the Air Force. He ended up as a jet engine mechanic for around four years. Afterward, Robert took a break from aviation and focused on raising his family. Around 10 years later, he became involved with his local chapter in Appleton, Wisconsin. When he started helping, the chapter had an old Taylorcraft basket case it was actively putting together and restoring. Robert jumped at the opportunity to participate in this project and then got asked by a fellow builder there if he wanted to volunteer at Oshkosh. Without hesitation, Robert accepted and has been volunteering ever since early 1982.

“I have always done this because it is what I have wanted to do. I have always wanted to stay involved in aviation, and I have had opportunities to do things here that I just would have never been able to do in other places,” Robert said. “I am very appreciative. It makes me think back on all of the people that I have worked with over the years here.”

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