Nancy Coleman’s son William needed to get to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital from his northern Virginia home, but with his mitochondrial disease the family couldn’t drive or use a commercial flight.
About 450 miles away in Perrysburg, Charlie Poll drove about 50 miles to Bluffton Airport in southwest Hancock County, from which he flew his four-seat Arrow airplane to Bowling Green, Va., to pick up the Colemans and fly them to Cincinnati — at his own expense.
Mr. Poll made this trip six times during William’s childhood.
“I don’t know what we would have done without it,” Ms. Coleman said. “It was amazing. I don’t think we would have got there without it.”
For 14 years, Mr. Poll has volunteered his time, plane, and pilot skills for people in need. He works with Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, a nonprofit organization that arranges flights for patients to get to specialized care at distant hospitals.
“It’s addictive,” Mr. Poll said. “Once you do it, there is nothing better in the world than to see the look on their faces, and they can’t thank you enough. It is a great feeling.”
William’s family tried driving, but because his brain-stem disease sapped his energy, he ended up in three hospitals during a drive home from Cincinnati. They once tried a commercial flight, but an ambulance had to meet them at the airport because the travel was too harsh.
The Cincinnati hospital, Ms. Coleman said, was essential to William’s treatment because of its pediatric brain-stem surgeon.
“Charlie was amazing,” she said. “He was great with my son and such a godsend.”
While William needed the flights because of his condition, Suzanne Rhodes, with Angel Flight, said most clients need the nonprofit organization’s help because of their finances.
Mr. Poll, who made 50 flights last year — nearly one per week, on average, but busiest in summer — received the Ohio Angel Flight Pilot of the Year award for the sixth time for making the most flights. Mr. Poll said he spends about $20,000 annually for fuel and maintenance to support the flights.
Chicago, Cleveland, Ann Arbor, and Cincinnati are the main destinations for Mr. Poll’s passengers. The Toledo native loves to fly and has enjoyed seeing downtown Chicago, the Mackinac Bridge, the Great Lakes, and other sights during his Angel Flight trips.
One meaningful passenger for Mr. Poll has been Ethan Boone, whom he has known from 7 months old. Ethan, now in kindergarten, suffered a deadly form of meningitis that forced amputation of his arms and legs. “He now has artificial limbs, and he is the smartest kid in his class and loves to fish,” Mr. Poll said. “It is amazing, incredible — I can’t describe it.”