2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review

2017 has been a terrific year of growth and impact for the Wings for Val Foundation!

Here are some of our most memorable highlights:


After receiving more than 60 applications from 6 countries, we proudly selected Sinead Kirnan as our 2017 LT Valerie Cappelaere Delaney Memorial Scholarship winner. Sinead is a C17 loadmaster with the Air National Guard in Newburgh, NY who hopes to be commissioned as an Air Force pilot. In March, we traveled to Florida to award Sinead her $5,000 flight training scholarship  at the Women in Aviation International Conference and to welcome her into our network of past scholarship recipients and other Navy pilots who also attended the conference. We cherish the time spent connecting with women in all fields of aviation, knowing that we are playing a small role in supporting more females to earn their wings and to carry on Val’s legacy of reaching forward for mentorship and reaching behind to support those behind them.


We grew the number of Wings for Val teams that participated in organized athletic events to raise money for our Foundation and other partner organizations. In February, we had a team participate for the third consecutive year in the 100k Vertical Challenge skiing event at Whitetail Resort for Two Top Adaptive Sports Foundation. In May, a group of seven individuals ran 200 miles from Gettysburg to D.C. in 2 days as part of the American Odyssey Relay Race. In our biggest turnout yet, we had over 200 runners participate on Wings for Val teams in the Travis Manion Foundation 9/11 Heroes Runs in September and October across ten different locations! And to top it all off, we even had one individual, Buzz Krohn, finish the Maryland IRONMAN race wearing Val’s photo and number 6 to help raise awareness of our Foundation. We hope to continue growing these numbers into 2018!


On the 4th anniversary of Val’s death in March, we received a very touching tribute organized by a former French military officer, author, and historian, Rudolph de Patureaux. Rudolph met Val in 2007, but just learned of her death this year and wanted to mobilize the French and Canadian aviation communities to honor her through an incredible montage of vintage photographs. This was just the beginning of a relationship that continued to grow throughout the year, as Pat traveled to the Normandy region in France in June for a special D-Day anniversary event and as Rudolph traveled to Maryland in November for our annual event at the Women’s Memorial. We are grateful for our relationship with Rudolph and how he’s sparked this profound Franco-American aviation connection that celebrates heroes of past and present in a way that can inspire future generations of young women and leaders.


In another memorial tribute, we reconnected with the family of Army Captain Sara Knutson Cullen who was tragically killed in a Black Hawk Helicopter crash in Afghanistan on the same day as Val, March 11, 2013. The similarities between these two military aviators are striking. In Sara’s memory, we committed to offering a second scholarship through WAI ($2,000) for an aspiring helicopter pilot who embodies Sara’s character traits. We are excited to expand our scholarship program to support more women in aviation in memory of both Val and Sara.


In September, I had the honor of sharing the Wings for Val story on the TEDx stage in the small Southern Maryland military community of Leonardtown. What an incredibly challenging, yet rewarding personal achievement! I worked for several months crafting the presentation and refining the core messages with a TON of support and encouragement along the way, so I feel very proud of the final video that can hopefully touch audiences for years to come (currently over 2,000 views – help us reach more!). As part of my preparation, I practiced my talk with the Vassar College Women’s Soccer team who ended up taking on Val’s Adapt and Overcome motto to guide their season. I also shared my presentation with over 200 girls at St. Timothy’s School in Baltimore as part of an assembly series focusing on heroes in their lives. Seeing how the video and our core messages resonate with young women confirms to me that we’re on the right track!


Over the summer, we launched our new website that has a more professional design and user-friendly experience thanks to our internal software engineer lead, Pat, with lots of help from friends, Devin and Dustin Watson. As for some social media updates — we added over 250 likes to our Facebook page and now have 1,290 (can you help us reach over 2,018 in 2018?!) We started dabbling in using Instagram and currently have about 300 followers. Our most shared Facebook post was a photo shared of Val’s friend and former Navy lacrosse teammate, LT Mary Ruttum, pictured above, who became only the 6th female pilot to complete the Navy’s Strike Fighter Training, aka Top Gun! This post reached nearly 27,000 people! We plan to continue sharing more of these kinds of stories in 2018, which we started with the release of our “Women Behind the Wings” series.


The Navy Women’s Lacrosse team had a record-breaking season this year, making it to the final four for the first time in the program’s young history. We are huge fans! During their alumni reception in September, we awarded our 3rd annual Wings for Val #6 Award to senior captain, Blake Smith. It’s such an honor to support the NWL’s alumni weekend reception and to continue Val’s legacy among this amazing group of female athletes and leaders, past and present.


On November 4, W4V celebrated female aviators of past, present and future during our 3rd annual fundraising event at the Women’s Memorial. This event has turned into a celebratory “winging ceremony,” during which we not only highlight stories of women military aviators who have contributed their wings to our Wings for Val exhibit , but we also add more sets of wings that have been donated to us throughout the year. With over one-hundred attendees, we delivered a phenomenal program and enjoyed a Mission BBQ reception followed by a live auction and raffle prizes.


Our dear friend, Julie Philips, wrote and illustrated a beautiful children’s book, “Fly With Me”, to exclusively benefit our Foundation and to help us reach the youngest generation. With a special Giving Tuesday promotion, we shipped over 50 copies and raised nearly $3,000!! We’ll be making these books available for sale through Shopify and Amazon in the new year, so look out for opportunities to buy your copy!


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