Aitheras Aviation Group to Raise Funds for COTA

Aitheras Aviation Group to Raise Funds for COTA

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On Saturday, August 30th, Aitheras Aviation Group (AAG) will give the Cleveland area a chance to help support the Children’s Transplant Organ Association (COTA) to help give transplant families’ stories a happy ending.  Aitheras is a global, on-demand aircraft operator specializing in medical transport, based at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. 

AAG will host a Casino Royale evening at Burke Lakefront Airport with casino games, dancing, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.  The Golden Eye Package is $175 and the High Roller Package is $250, which includes an aerial sightseeing tour of downtown Cleveland on September 13th.  The Let It Fly package is $75 and includes dancing and hors d’oeuvres with a cash bar. 100% of the proceeds will go to COTA to support children and young adults who need life-saving transplants. RSVP today!

Charlie McMicken’s story is an example of a happy ending that happened right in the Cleveland area, thanks to COTA’s help.

The doctors and nurses who entered Charlie’s hospital room at the Cleveland Clinic quickly came to expect a lesson - complete with action figures - on the merits of Spiderman vs. Doc Ock and the reason Captain America carries a shield.

When Charlie was strong enough, the two-year-old walked the corridors of the Cleveland Clinic in a superhero costume, which was a sight that soon became familiar during his 11-month stay waiting for a heart transplant.  But while Charlie pitted Superman against Lex Luthor, Charlie’s parents, John and Sarah McMicken, were fighting their own battle against time.  Charlie was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at birth, and they were told he would need a heart transplant to survive.  In October 2011, when Charlie was two-and-a-half years old, his health was rapidly deteriorating and he was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic.  The family’s wait continued until June 2012 when they received the call that a new heart was available.

Charlie, now anxiously awaiting his sixth birthday, just celebrated his two-year transplant anniversary and is healthy and happy.  However, a really important relationship that developed during their wait took the McMicken family from the stomach-twisting start of the story to a happy ending.

“A few months into our stay at the Cleveland Clinic, we were introduced to COTA and they worked with our family members to set up what became an immensely successful community fundraising campaign that ended up taking place in multiple cities,” said John.

COTA is a national 501(c)3 charity, based in Bloomington, Indiana, that is dedicated to organizing and guiding communities in raising funds for transplant-related expenses.  Since its inception in 1986, COTA's mission has been that no child or young adult is denied a transplant or excluded from a transplant waiting list due to lack of funds.  100% of all funds raised in honor of transplant patients are used for transplant-related expenses.

COTA believes that transplant parents need to focus on the health of their transplant-needy children; therefore, coordinating fundraising events should not be a priority.  COTA helps transplant parents to identify friends and/or family members who have the time to take on the fundraising portion of the family’s journey.  For the COTA in honor of Charlie M team, it was his Aunt Jennifer from Connecticut and Katy, a close family friend and neighbor.  COTA trained Katie and Jennifer and worked with them over a period of months to help them coordinate, promote and orchestrate fundraisers for transplant-related expenses. 

An example of the COTA team’s fundraising efforts involved the Auburn Township school system, Kenston, which hosted a variety of different school-sponsored COTA events in honor of Charlie at the high school, elementary and middle school levels. The school system allowed students to set up tables for t-shirt sales and COTA information dissemination.  The students came up with the slogan ‘Heart for Charlie’ and created rubber bracelets to raise awareness of the desperate need for pediatric organ donors.

“Kenston really went above and beyond,” said John.  “At one time all around Cleveland, people were wearing these rubber bracelets and that was really inspiring to us.  There were also neighborhood cookouts and local news outlets that were doing progress stories on Charlie’s condition.  The Cleveland Clinic put together a couple of video pieces. The support was just overwhelming and it quickly gained momentum. ”

As John is quick to point out, and COTA will echo, someone has to have the worst day of their life in order for the pediatric organ transplant process to work.  Part of COTA’s goal, in addition to fundraising for transplant-related expenses, is raising awareness around pediatric organ donation.  Most parents do not think about their children being organ donors because they never want to consider a scenario in which that decision has to be made.  Once the scenario is present, there is too much going on to act quickly, so transplant-needy kids, like Charlie, typically have to wait a long time to receive a life-saving transplant.

The little girl whose heart saved Charlie’s life also saved seven other children with organs when her parents made the decision to donate.  “If parents are at least aware of this option, maybe they can get some small relief knowing you can do that much good very quickly,” said John.

Charlie’s story shows that while COTA’s reach is national, individual COTA fundraising efforts have direct impact in cities like Cleveland.  COTA has helped more than 2,200 transplant-needy children and adults, and has raised more than $75 million for transplant-related expenses.  Since 1986, more than 1,600 COTA patients have been successfully transplanted.  In 2013 alone, more than 170 COTA patients were successfully transplanted and nearly $5 million was raised for transplant-related expenses.

“Without COTA’s contributors, we would not be able to give children like Charlie a second chance at life,” said Rick Lofgren, COTA’s President and CEO. “We appreciate the trust of our contributors, and the tireless work of our volunteers.  We are grateful for caring individuals and businesses that step forward to help make a life-saving difference in the lives of our kids, and are grateful to the team at Aitheras for doing so in such a tangible manner.”

For more information about the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), please contact Doug Lippert, Director of Development, at 800.366.2682 or at

Around the clock, 365 days a year, in even the most remote regions of the world, you’ll find Aitheras is there.