Charlotte’s Sweet Sixteen
She was lying in bed, wondering when the nauseous feelings would pass. Head pounding. Stomach turning. Being sick is never fun.
“By the way, Charlotte, I planned your birthday party. We’re doing a MobilePack with a few hundred people. Oh, and it’s in an airplane hangar.”
Even in a healthy, normal state, her father’s words wouldn’t have made much sense.
Soon, Charlotte would understand that her birthday was to be a memorable one.
Charlotte Thompson was born and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. A few months prior to their confusing conversation, moving day had come. Chris, Charlotte’s dad, had accepted a job as the new National Development Director for Feed My Starving Children, headquartered in Minnesota. It would be a tough move. Not only was Illinois home, but Charlotte’s mother and Chris’ wife had passed away six years prior. Moving meant more than starting over with new friends.
She was also turning sixteen soon. And sixteen is a big year–one usually filled with high school friends, driver’s licenses, and the first tastes of adulthood. But in a new place, things might be different.
Soon after the move, Chris felt God calling him to host a MobilePack, where a business or church can fundraise and pack meals right in their own building. FMSC MobilePack events were hosted all around the country and had produced 40+ million life-giving meals this year alone. Chris was also searching for a special way to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. Two ideas connected. Why not make the MobilePack into a big birthday party for Charlotte? But, how and where would an event like this be possible?
In May, a humble man named Harvey Hielkema held an auction in Wisconsin to sell his entire priceless car collection. One by one, they all sold, and Harvey raised $78,000 for FMSC. After meeting Chris at the auction, Harvey agreed that Charlotte’s birthday pack would be the perfect way to use some of the money.
Chris wanted his daughter’s MobilePack to be back home so all her friends could be there. While searching his mind for a possible venue, Chris felt a prompting to call his friend Joe. Joe Mangi, an FMSC Chicago Council Member and the man responsible for telling Chris about his new FMSC job, was also a pilot for Priester Aviation. Their private airplane hangar (north of O’Hare) would make the perfect spot to pack meals.
Though Chris may have picked a bad day to tell his daughter about the MobilePack, Charlotte was overjoyed once the confusion cleared. The 2-day event was a huge success. Charlotte’s birthday pack would host the first day in the hangar and Priester Aviation would host the next. Friends, family, businessmen, pilots, and strangers all gathered for one common purpose: to celebrate life lived and lives saved.
“I had a bad traffic merging experience right across the street from that hangar during my driver’s test just the month before…” Not only did being home feel great to Charlotte, but being in an airplane hangar felt right. Charlotte had aspirations to get her pilot’s license soon. Her mother had loved flying.
In total, Charlotte’s birthday party, in combination with Priester Aviation, packed enough meals to feed 318 children a meal every day for an entire year. 116,000 meals makes for a pretty sweet 16.
Photo Credit (4th & 5th shots): Brian O’Mahoney for Sun-Times Media.