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Young Eagles Volunteer Award Winners Announced

July, 2023 — The 2023 EAA Young Eagles volunteers of the Year have been announced, exemplifying the importance of the Young Eagles program and how many lives it has changed. This year, there are seven Young Eagles volunteer recipients: Al Bormuth, Thomas Letts, Denise Sandager, Don White, Lauren and Mathieu Labs, Linda Jordan, and Tom Meadows. The Young Eagles Volunteer of the Year recipients were honored at a ceremony on Tuesday, July 25 in the Founders Wing of the EAA Aviation Museum.

Al Bormuth

Al Bormuth grew up in Indiana but has lived in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Chicago. He moved around a lot through his childhood, so he did not get to practice aviation as much as he wanted to. Around the age of 34, he started taking lessons with the idea of being able to fly customers and fly airplanes. Even though his plan may have changed slightly from when he first started, Al would not want his life to be any other way. He has been the coordinator for around 14 years and has served as chapter president for around three terms for Chapter 731, located in North Carolina. Al is receiving the Chapter Young Eagles Coordinator Award.

“I did it for the smiles of the kids and the smiles of the pilots when they get out of the plane, and that is the ultimate award,” Al said. “I am honored, and it is great to be recognized.”

Thomas Letts

Thomas Letts has been flying for over 44 years, since 1979 when he became a pilot at age 19. Throughout his flying career, he attained his CFI, drone pilot certificate, commercial instrument certificate, multiengine training, and FAA Part 121 air-craft dispatch training. He participated in leading projects that allowed high school students to build an airplane and helped on the weekends running Young Eagles rally events. He became the Young Eagles coordinator at Chapter 301 in Colorado. Thomas is receiving the Chapter Young Eagles Coordinator Award.

“I am honored that I was chosen as the Young Eagles Coordinator of the Year. I am totally honored by that, and I am humbled by it,” Thomas said. “But even on a bad day, I still can affect somebody’s life in a positive way. So being the coordinator and being recognized as a coordinator here, it tells me that I must be doing something right.” 

Denise Sandager

Denise Sandager grew up in northeast Iowa on a farm with her brother and parents. As she grew up, she met her now husband, who was very involved in aviation and EAA. She always made it a point to be at the rallies her husband would be at, as he was previously the Young Eagles coordinator for her local chapter. Eventually, Denise decided she wanted to devote her time to being the coordinator in Albert Lea, Minnesota. With that in mind, eventually Denise attained the title of Young Eagles coordinator for her local chapter, Chapter 13, and is now receiving the Chapter Young Eagles Coordinator Award.

“I think it is a great honor. I think Young Eagles is a really good program,” Denise said. “I grew up in a farming community where you help other people, you work together with your neighbors. And it’s that kind of camaraderie that I see with EAA and with Young Eagles.”

Don White

Don White has been a chapter officer for over 10 years. He became interested in the Young Eagles program after his first Young Eagles flight in 1995 with mentor Tony Yacono. He worked for IBM for 35 years as a programmer and customer systems engineer and did worldwide websites. During that time, he also attained his private pilot certificate, instrument, commercial, and seaplane/tailwheel ratings. He has served as chapter VP and president, and now actively serves as website editor, Young Eagles coordinator, and Young Eagles pilot for Chapter 724 in Florida. Don is receiving the Young Eagles Horizon Award.

“I was blown away when I got the message about this award,” Don said. “The Young Eagles program has been a very important part of my life for many years, from all the positions I held within the chapter.”

Lauren and Mathieu Labs

Lauren and Mathieu Labs have been connected to aviation since they have been together. They are both highly involved within their local EAA chapter, Chapter 931 in Wisconsin. Mathieu serves as the Young Eagles coordinator for his chapter, and Lauren manages the ground operations and is the Ray Aviation Scholarship chair. Lauren took the pilot’s written exam to connect with the kids in their local chapter easily and better understand what they were going through. Mathieu made it a point to attend EAA leadership camps. Both Lauren and Mathieu are being recognized for the Young Eagles Phoenix Award.

“Everything I have worked for, it’s really all come together. I spend at least 20 hours a week on top of my full-time job and all my other stuff just to keep the chapter afloat and the Young Eagles program going,” Mathieu said. “Getting this award is an honor and very flattering to be recognized.”

“It is not work; it’s fun,” Lauren said. “It’s cool to see how hard work pays off, not even just from an award standpoint, but how the community and people are starting to recognize our events or our chapter.”

Linda Jordan (left)

After Linda Jordan met her husband, Ken, she was hooked on flying after he wanted her to learn how. They started volunteering with North 40 registration at AirVenture in Oshkosh, and 20 years later, Linda is responsible for all the back-end stuff regarding rallies. They both assisted in the Young Eagles program out of Orlando, Florida, and eventually Ken became the Young Eagles coordinator for that chapter, while Linda helped lead the back end of the program. After that, Linda and Ken formed a chapter out of Umatilla, Florida, Chapter 1632, and have been doing rallies with them ever since. Linda is receiving the Young Eagles Ground Support Volunteer Award.

“It is always nice to be recognized. I do not look for it, because I enjoy what I am doing,” Linda said. “But it is nice to have EAA recognize that I do a fair amount of work.”

Tom Meadows

After a simple flight given to him at the age of 13 years old, Tom Meadows’ life was changed in the best way possible — aviation came into his life. After some time in the Navy, flying P2V Neptunes, instructing 6,000 hours in mountain environments, and traveling the world with his wife, Tom became involved with the Young Eagles program. Most of the flying Tom participates in regarding Young Eagles is traveling to another airport and flying Young Eagles at the other airports. Tom has flown more than 1,900 Young Eagles missions, mainly in local Truckee and North Lake Tahoe, other California airports, and airports nationwide. He is receiving the Phillips 66 Leadership Award.

“I am just really happy. My own reason for being happy is I am instructing and that is what I do. It is just really good to see the kids while they are in flight, especially the ones that are handling the controls,” Tom said. “It is quite a shock to receive this award. I view it as like a lifetime Oscar.”

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