Flying for the Cause
By MEGHAN DURBAK
Glenndale Days aids families
Tribune staff writer
Monday, September 24, 2007
Click here to see a slideshow of the annual Glenndale Days
There was a time when Laura Stants couldn’t see past her grief.
She felt desperate.
At 3 months, her son, Devon, was diagnosed with spinal muscular
atrophy, a terminal illness that destroys all the muscles in the
body. Nine months later he died. A few months later, she and her
husband Steve lost their second son, Sidney, a few hours after his
birth, to the disorder.
“If you’d asked me ‘Can you handle this?’ I’d say no,” she said.
“You’re not given a choice. “You can spend the rest of your
life mourning their lives or remember them as they were.”
So she and her husband made a choice. They chose to pursue happiness
and, in turn, help others who’ve faced the same hardships.
The couple has run Glenndale Airport for years. Since the early
1990s, they’ve thrown the annual Glenndale Days Barbecue where
numerous pilots gather to show off their planes and offer rides to
to turn the annual barbecue into a fundraiser for spinal muscular
atrophy (SMA). SMA is a muscle disease passed on genetically to
children by their parents. It is a recessive genetic disease,
meaning both parents must carry a copy of the recessive SMA gene.
There is only a 25 percent chance of offspring having SMA.
Each year the Stants raise money to provide families with breathing
machines, monitors, seating systems, wheel chairs, and other
They’ve also made contact with a manufacturer for a cough assist
machine, that helps children breathe and get rid of bacteria, Stants
She said they’ve helped some local families as well as families of
SMA children from as far away as Australia. Families have found them
on their Web site, www.smasupport.org.
“When you have a child with a terminal illness, you’re pretty much
desperate,” she said.
The charity helps the Stants remember their sons and help others.
“I think about them, but not in a sad way,” she said. “Their lives
weren’t in vain and their memory is positive,” she said. “Because
they lived, look at what we can help accomplish.”
She said the barbecue isn’t a time of mourning — it’s a time for
extended family, like their fellow pilots, and the community to come
together for fun and raise money for a good cause.
The Stants choose to share their love of flying. For the event, they
invite several pilots to fly into Glenndale Airport and take part of
the weekend event. Nine of them give rides to community members in
six small planes. The planes range from a Cessna 172, a one-seater
ultra lite, and an AT-6 Texan, used as a trainer for Allied pilots
during World War II.
Stants said most of the pilots are their extended family. Ken Bemis,
a flight instructor and pilot of 30 years, has known the Stants for
years. He shares their enthusiasm for flying.
“You can see the sun set while on the ground and then climb a few
thousand feet and see it all over again,” he said.
He also enjoys the thrill of flying the small Cessna 172.
“You can ride in a roller coaster all day,” he said.
He comes to the barbecue to help “a good cause” and for the
camaraderie of other pilots. So does his friend, A.E. Purcifull.
“This is grassroots. This is where aviation started,” Purcifull
The event is also an eye-opener for future pilots. Several children
come and wish to fly afterwards. It’s no different with the Stants’
6 1/2 -year-old daughter, Kaylee.
Stants said she and her husband were delighted to finally have a
healthy child, whom they’re raising to be a pilot just like them.
“I want to be a pilot because I like to fly,” Kaylee said.
While the couple has lived through some very difficult times, Stants
said she and her family have hope for themselves and other families.
“You have to live life,” she said.
For additional details or to support Spinal Muscular Atrophy Support
Inc., contact SMA Support Inc., P.O. Box 6301, Kokomo, IN, 46904,
(317) 536-6063 or visit the Web at www.smasupport.org.