5K prize sponsor pairs teen flight classes with motivational message
Wings of Grace Ministries founder Dwight Bell congratulates teen Cameron Morgan recently on his first solo flight.
Wings of Grace Ministries is providing the grand prize — a one-hour helicopter tour — for this year’s Bluewater Foundation Color Me Healthy 5K Run/Walk. The event begins with 5K registration at 7 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 7 at Jack Mahon Park at 7550 Spyglass Hill Road in the Suntree/Viera area of Melbourne.
Participants can experience piloting an aircraft courtesy of two flight simulators at the event provided by the ministry. Entry to see the exhibits is free and open to the public until 10:30 a.m.
Wings of Grace targets troubled teens. Founder Dwight Bell says he has a heart for them because he used to be one.
“Looking back, I did a lot of reckless things. I’m just lucky the outcome wasn’t different,” Bell said.
He credits learning about Christianity and finding a love for Christ as turning his life around. After many years of success in the real estate industry, Bell decided he wanted to give back some of the business and spiritual wisdom he had gleaned through the years.
“I tried imparting all this wisdom to a group of teens, and after a few minutes, I could just see that they weren’t very interested in what I was saying,” Bell said.
So he re-evaluated his approach and decided to try something a little more innovative.
The result is Wings of Grace Ministries, a Christ-centered flight school for teenagers. It connects local teens with a love for aviation with the ability to learn how to fly aircraft — and even obtain their pilot’s license. The program hosts 25 to 30 teenagers each year, and the classes run parallel with the school year. Along with flying lessons, both on the ground and in the air, Wings of Grace offers motivational guidance for teens grounded in Christianity.
In Florida, individuals must be 17 years old and have 40 hours of instructed flight time to obtain a pilot’s license. Bell says that his students typically have between 80 to 120 hours by the time they are finished with the program.
All of that flying comes at a cost, though. Bell estimates it costs $150 per hour for flight lessons — a price that is too steep for the families of many of the students he is trying to reach with his ministry. To help fund the flying lessons, Bell and his wife Angelia have formed two other arms of the nonprofit.
The first additional arm is a low-income housing program that connects residents who need a second chance with renting a safe, affordable home. The rent from the homes is fed back into the flight program. In exchange, many of the flight students spend weekends volunteering fixing up the properties and earning flight time.
The second additional arm of the business is a music side, helmed by Angelia Bell. She hosts concerts locally and sells CDs of her own recordings to raise funds for the flight school.
Everyone who attends the race will receive one ticket to enter the drawing. Runners will receive three tickets.
The application process for next year’s class is now open. For more information, go to wingsofgraceministries.org.