Averi Rosenblum Torres
Class of 1960
Averi Rosenblum Torres is the co-founder of Angel Flight with her husband Dennis Torres which has become, through merger, the largest general aviation charitable organization in the world. Angel Flight provides free air transportation on private aircraft for persons with health care problems who are financially distressed or who due to their condition, cannot travel by other means. This includes travel to or from a hospital or clinic for diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, dialysis or other treatment.
In the fall of 1983, Averi felt that instead of burning up fuel in their private airplane for their personal enjoyment they could use their enjoyment of flying to do some good. That night Averi had a dream, a dream of flying people who were less fortunate, to and from medical treatments in areas difficult to reach by ordinary transportation.
After Averi shared her dream with Dennis, they enthusiastically decided to create her vision and transport people in need of medical treatment who could not do so through other resources.
Private aircraft (known as general aviation) are particularly suited for this service as there are thousands of nearby general aviation airports than there are commercial ones. In their research they discovered a similar one man organization in an embryonic state in Las Vegas. They immediately flew to meet him and quickly realized that his organization had no organization at all and that its mission as a charity was suspect - they discontinued their relationship at once and founded their own Non-profit organization which they named Angel Flight.
They had Averiâ€™s dream and that was all. So they went to work giving form and life to her vision. For the next 5 years of their lives they devoted 90% to 100% of their time and funds to create Angel Flight.
Averi outlined the organization beginning with a mission statement which was to provide for free air transportation to and from medical facilities on members aircraft to persons with medical needs who could not do so on their own. Today that mission statement reads â€œto arrange free air transportation in response to health care and other compelling human needs.â€ No passenger or their family members would ever be solicited for money and very importantly they both declared, that no pilot would be permitted to accept reimbursement for any of his or her expenses. This decision was a very important factor in Angel Flightâ€™s success. They knew that many of the people who would be transported by Angel Flight were fighting life threatening disorders and they wanted to make sure that all the pilots were giving for the right reasons.
They created the logo (a winged caduceus), membership forms, mission forms, membership rosters, brochures and membership badges â€“ fastened with a metal clip to be worn conspicuously while flying a mission. Averi and Dennis also recruited nearly every pilot during the next 5 year period beginning with the original 8 and amounting to hundreds; now thousands. They had jackets, hats and tee shirts created with the Angel Flight logo personally selecting the manufacturers and the designs; Averi and Dennis still wear the original first editions.
The new organization could not exist without serving those in need so Averi spent days calling and meeting with health care organizations to make them aware of Angel Flight. They did the same to the American Cancer Society, The Loma Linda Eye and Tissue Bank, The City of Hope and many, many others, (List is available upon request) Each and every one of them was personally contacted by either Averi or Dennis. Officially Angel Flight was in business.
They presided over every monthly meeting in addition to finding aviation related guest speakers for the nearly 5 years they lead the organization as president, board members and executive director.
Averi and Dennis had Angel Flight incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit both at the Federal and State levels so that the pilots could deduct their direct expenses such as fuel and so that they could establish an economic base by soliciting donations for Angel Flightâ€™s future. In addition to their time, it was Averiâ€™s spiritual business that was paying for the creation and daily expense of creating and running Angel Flight as well as all their personal living expenses. Averi is recognized as one of the worldâ€™s top ten Global Psychics for governments and corporations.
Dennis went to the Pepperdine University library where he started writing, calling and meeting with as many foundations as would meet with him. Several of them such as Lon V. Smith Foundation have been contributing for 20 years or more. Averi and Dennis flew around the State and made presentations to businesses and service organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis picking up checks whenever they could.
They contacted celebrities to produce public service announcements (PSAs) which they scripted; Tonight Show co-host Ed MacMahn was the first to do so. Veteran newscaster and pilot Paul Harvey was another. They contacted radio stations and TV stations and convinced them to air the PSAs or report news stories about Angel Flights. Little by little the word got out and public recognition began to set in.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley was the first of many public officials to recognize Angel Flight inviting Averi and Dennis to his City Hall office to present them with a proclamation recognizing them as founders and proclaiming December 21, 1984 as Angel Flight Day in Los Angles. This was followed by similar recognition from Los Angeles County Supervisor Dean Dana, Mayor James Conn of Santa Monica, the City Council of Loma Linda and many others. Averi and Dennis appeared as a guests speaking about Angel Flight on numerous TV and radio shows including being invited to appear on Larry Kingâ€™s CNN show. Several newspapers including the Santa Monica Evening Outlook presented Averi and Dennis with awards and recognition as citizens of the year. The Giraffe Project (www.Giraffe.org) who for 30 years has been recognizing people who â€œstick their neckâ€™s out for the common goodâ€ named Dennis a Giraffe Hero and inducted him into their elite group of honored members. Richard H. Bryan the then governor of Nevada, U.S. senator S.I. Hayakawa; former U.S. senator and California governor Pete Wilson; California governor, and U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Olympian Bruce Jenner and many others also singled out Averi and Dennis for commendation and were early supporters of Angel Flight.
Averi and Dennis also traveled around the USA helping to start other chapters of Angel Flight as independent organizations. They authorized the use of the name Angel Flight and shared all their organizational materials, forms and procedures as well as countless hours of aid. Today many of those chapters are part of a nation wide charity gathered under the umbrella of Air Charities Network (www.aircharitiesnetwork.org ) which up until a 2007 was known as Angel Flight America.
If you check Air Charities Networkâ€™s web site you will see that it is primarily made of up Angel Flight organizations; Angel Flight Central; Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic; Angel Flight Northeast; Angel Flight South Central; Angel Flight Southeast; and Angel Flight West.
Averi and Dennis took particular joy in knowing that Angel Flight was serving a wide cross section of society not just those typically categorized as â€œneedy.â€ The working class, middle class and even those considered moderately well off were in need of Angel Flightâ€™s services since medical insurance policies generally do not cover medical flights except where imminent threat to life is present. Flights to and from treatment centers even for life threatening disorders are not considered imminent threats and therefore not covered; and commercial airlines will not permit people who are ill to board.
Angel Flight serves most every segment of society. One of the early flights Averi and Dennis made for Angel Flight was for a man who had been president of a bank. When he had been stricken with a very virulent form of cancer and the bank realized he would not likely return to work he was terminated and he had a wife, children and a mortgage. Another early flight was for a woman who lived in Monterey, (Northern) California and was on a wait list for a new kidney at a Southern California hospital. Although Monterey is a fairly good size city the last commercial flight to Southern California departed at 9 PM. When they received a call at 3 A.M. that a kidney was available Angel Flight picked her up and got her to the hospital. Without Angel Flight she would not have received that kidney. Without an organization like Angel Flight her choices would have been to either leave her employment and her family and move close to the transplant hospital in Southern California to wait for an unknown period of time or take a chance that when a kidney became available she would be able to get a commercial flight; a narrow window of time exists before the transplant surgeons have to give the organ to another patient should she be unable to get to the hospital. Not only is Angel Flight an on call service, but it serves those people who do not live near commercial airports â€“ but live close to the many thousands of general aviation airports â€“ and are too ill to travel great distances even by car to receive much needed treatment.
The anniversary celebration, first initiated by Averi and Dennis has continued and last year their 24th, was hosted in Monterey, California by Angel Flight Westâ€™s Board member Command Pilot and Retired Navy (3 star) Admiral Skip Armstrong, active Angel Flight pilot and former commanding officer of the USS Forestall aircraft carrier.
Averi and Dennisâ€™ efforts in founding, funding and establishing Angel Flight were more than just the role of â€œfounders,â€ those with just an idea. They not only founded Angel Flight, they created it hands on, working tirelessly almost exclusively for 5 years while Dennis put his successful career, business and familyâ€™s financial interest on hold. Averi then had the full responsibility of funding Angel Flight as well as providing for their family. When they finally turned over the reins to their hand picked executive committee the committee promptly rented an office at the Santa Monica Airport, hired a salaried executive director who in turn hired a small paid staff to run the organization and coordinate the missions.
Today the original Angel Flight organization founded by Averi and Dennis now covers 13 western States (is known as Angel Flight West) and has flown well over 40,000 missions, at a rate of some 4,000 (and growing) missions each year. Actor and Angel Flight pilot Lorenzo Llamas flew the celebrated 20,000th mission some years ago which was widely covered by the media. It was this original Angel Flight organization that took the lead a couple of years ago to bring together the other Angel Flight chapters, many of whom Averi and Dennis helped organize and a few similar but smaller organizations to form Angel Flight America which now collectively flies some 25,000 plus missions each year; that is almost one mission every 20 minutes of every day, 365 days each year.
As founders of Angel Flight Averi and Dennis received much acclaim. These awards, plaques, articles etc. are either hanging in the Angel Flight West headquarters or in storage boxes deeply imbedded in their garage waiting for their someday retirement before they have the time go through them
Through Averiâ€™s dream, hard work and sacrifices, along with Dennis, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children suffering from serious, debilitating medical problems including their family members have already been helped and likely given the strength of Angel Flight millions more over the years will benefit. Additionally they have helped enrich the lives of the thousands of private pilots who have had the opportunity to serve those in need.
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