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Pilots for Christ ball drop to be held at Maddock Airport

By Staff | Jul 25, 2020

A helicopter drops colored balls over the Maddock Airport for the J.T. Rice North Dakota Chapter Pilots for Christ Annual Ball Drop in 2019. Submitted Photo

The J.T. Rice North Dakota Chapter of Pilots for Christ will hold its eighth annual fly in and ball drop Sunday, Aug. 2, at 10 a.m. at the Maddock Airport in Maddock.

“It’s really neat,” said event organizer Pat Tracy. “We have great attendance.”

Tracy said this year’s ball drop will be different from those in past years.

“Usually, afterwards, we have helicopter rides and airplane rides, but we’re not going to do that this year because of COVID,” Tracy said. “We usually hold (the event) inside the hangar, but this year, we’re going to hold it outside the hangar. We’re going to have chairs available so people can take a chair outside and sit where they want so they can do social distancing.”

Describing the ball drop, Tracy said, “When you come, you get a ticket with a number on it, for example, I’ll use the number 10. We number a golf ball 10 and put it in a bucket. Then, when other people come, we give them a number and put in a golf ball with their number. Then, after all the golf balls and tickets have been disbursed, we take them up in a helicopter and drop them over a golf flag. Then, the ball that falls closest to the flag gets the prize. We measure the distance. Closest gets first prize, second gets second prize and so on.”

Tracy said the event is a fundraiser “because we’re accepting donations.” However, there will be no charge to participate in the ball drop, and free sack lunches will be provided to those who attend.

“We usually have a buffet lunch,” Tracy said. “This year, we’re going to have bag lunches with a turkey sandwich, homemade cookies and a bag of chips, so people can grab a bag lunch and sit in chairs or go out onto the grass and feel comfortable social distancing.”

The ball drop will follow an all-faith service. Tracy said Pastor Bruce Dick of Devils Lake will speak at the service.

“We will also have a speaker at the service who’s a previous recipient of a Pilots for Christ mission,” Tracy said. “She’ll provide some great testimony to what we do and how it helps.”

The J.T. Rice Chapter of North Dakota Pilots for Christ provides transportation services to people in need of out-of-area medical treatments.

“We do a couple of things,” Tracy said. “We help with transportation. So, we make a lot of trips to the Mayo Clinic and to the University of Minnesota. We’ve been to the St. Paul Burn Center. We’ve been to Sioux Falls. We went to Denver Children’s Clinic.”

“We have ‘auto pilots,’ too, so, if someone needs help with driving, we do that,” he added. “We help in any way we can.”

Describing the many people the charity has helped, Tracy said, “Our speaker (at the Sunday service), we took her on a flight because her son was burned in a fire accident. He was at the St. Paul Burn Center, and they have several children, and they didn’t want the kids to be alone. So, Mom would go one week and Dad would go the next week, and they were taking a bus to Fargo. They’d meet in Fargo and one would take the train to St. Paul and the other would take the bus home, but they had a little baby. So, we said, ‘Why can’t we just fly Mom down, pick up Dad and fly Dad home?’ So, we did that and I think it helped them a lot”.

“There were three boys in Grace City, North Dakota. They had traumatic terminal illnesses. There was a breakthrough treatment available in Germany. We helped fund their ticket to Germany,” Tracy added.

“We also paid for a commercial airline ticket for a girl with cancer who was sent home from clinic out of state. She had an 18-month-old baby and a two-year-old son. We sent her to MD Anderson Clinic in Texas and she’s cancer free now,” Tracy said, adding, “We paid her commercial ticket to get there.”

Members of the charity also distribute food to food banks in the fall, Tracy noted. “We’re going to do a big food drive for food banks,” he said. “Inner cities have really got to be suffering with the unemployment and the job rate. And of course, the other thing that’s going on is the destruction and the crime.”

“So,” he added, “We’re really looking to do some food or meal program and sponsoring an organization to help with some of those things.”

Tracy said the ball drop would raise funds only for the charity’s transportation program, however.

The J.T. Rice North Dakota Chapter of Pilots for Christ was named for John Timothy Rice, who was born in Rugby and homeschooled in Maddock, according to the chapter’s website.

Rice graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 2010 with honors in geopolitical science. He died in Texas while attending Texas Tech University for graduate studies in languages and would have received jet training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, after completing that program.

The website cited Rice’s “favorite verse: ‘Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of man.”

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