October 4, 2006
In the clouds
By RANDY GRIFFITH
Beaming as she carries a box of toys and snacks, 4-year-old Jacqueline
Tampia climbs into Jim Loncella's private plane at Johnstown's airport.
The Queens, N.Y., girl was on her way to receive specialized medical treatment
in Springfield, Ill., with transportation provided by Loncella through
Angel Flight America. The nonprofit group arranges free flights of hope
and healing to specialized medical treatment facilities. And Angel Flight
allows Loncella to use his love of flying to help others. "I found
it very rewarding," Loncella said. "The other pilots and the
patients are very interesting." A senior vice president for L. Robert
Kimball and Associates of Ebensburg, Loncella got the flying bug with
a $10 lesson in 1978 at the former Johnstown Aviation flight school. "It
has been a lifelong pursuit," Loncella said. Although neither she
nor her mother, Evelia, speaks much English, Jacqueline said she liked
looking at the clouds. She used the stop at MTT Aviation's facility in
Richland Township to work off some energy, bouncing around the lounge
area. Jacqueline is fighting neuro-blastoma, a childhood cancer that caused
her to develop opsoclonus-myoclonus, an autoimmune neurological disease.
She is getting help from Dr. Michael Pranzatelli, a professor at Southern
Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield and director of
the National Pediatric Myoclonus Center. Pranzatelli is one of the leading
experts in the rare syndrome and sees patients from around the world,
said Elizabeth Tate, his assistant.
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