By CAT ROBERTSON
A group of local paragliders were flying free as birds during a fundraiser for the Mountain Homeless Coalition on Aug. 25. The event, which was a great success, took place in Crestline where paragliders launched from a cliff on Playground Drive.
Local resident Erin Willcutt organized the event which included tacos, live music and lots of fun watching the paragliders launch off the steep cliff and sail around in the clear blue sky, and it was all for a great cause.
The Mountain Homeless Coalition (MHC) was organized in 2016; its goal is to reach, inform, serve and house locals who are experiencing homelessness, as well as educate local residents on the coalition’s needs.
Willcutt has been raising money for the MHC for a while now; she said the organization has a special place in her heart. She learned of the MHC while donating cookies to a church in Lake Arrowhead.
“I didn’t know there was a homeless issue on the mountain,” she said. “It opened my eyes to another aspect of the mountain and I wanted to do whatever I could do to help. I figured I could do something to impact our community because our community is not huge.”
It didn’t take Willcutt long to figure out a way to help. She likes to bake sourdough bread and cookies and has raised quite a bit of money with raffles she holds through her Facebook page. Tickets are $2 and the winners get to pick the bread they want to take home and they get an added bonus: the warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing they’ve helped with local homelessness.
Willcutt said the response to the paraglider event was terrific. “The feedback is that it was amazing. I thought it was a lot of fun,” she said. “People want to know when we’re going to do it again. One of the paragliders said they thought that was the most people that has ever been there (at Playground).”
There were approximately 100 people at the event, lots of them families. Children were running and playing and some danced to the live music. But there was one girl there who probably had the most fun of all. Her name is McKenzie Willcutt and she’s just 7 years old.
McKenzie took her first ride high in the sky. It was a tandem flight with an experienced paraglider, and she had a grin from ear to ear the entire time she was in the air and well after she was back on the ground. She was glowing with excitement.
Willcutt said that after McKenzie saw her dad go paragliding for the first time, she knew it was something she’d like to do. Birds of a feather like to fly together.
Willcutt said her husband, Robert, started paragliding about a year ago and he and a group of friends call themselves the Air Bears and they’re also known as the Crestline Kooks. Just for fun they wear bear costumes when they go paragliding.
“We did the fundraiser for the Mountain Homeless Coalition, but we also wanted to raise awareness about the stigma and misconception that paragliders are just partying and they’re reckless. And we just wanted to have fun. It was all for fun.”
When asked why she chose to support the MHC, Willcutt said, “We donate to the Mountain Homeless Coalition because that’s the one that has the most meaning for us. And their money stays on the mountain and in our community.”
Willcutt had so much fun at the event that she’s already thinking about possibly doing another one. “We’re hoping to do another event at some point, similar to what we just did,” she noted. “There’s no set date yet, but we want to do it.”
Sue Walker, vice president of the MHC, was very happy with the turnout of the event.
“The fundraiser was a success,” she said. “We had fun, we met new people and we raised money for the homeless. We enjoyed good tacos and watched the colorful gliders!
“Thanks to Erin and Robert Willcutt for organizing a fun day and the fundraiser for MHC. And thanks to all who participated!”
Walker said the MHC is currently seeking grants and contributions from local community groups to support their cause. She noted that the MHC had received a grant but it doesn’t cover all of their activities and expenses.
“We have an upcoming event, our Homeless Services Fair in Valley of Enchantment, to provide important services and also drum up support for the free dental clinic in San Bernardino.”
The Homeless Services Fair will offer lots of services and support for those facing homelessness including food, showers, laundry, transportation, registration for the free dental clinic, counseling, information on jobs, food cards, gas cards, bus passes, housing information, and more.
The fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 340 Highway 138 and Waters Drive in Valley of Enchantment.
The MHC seeks to create a community of awareness and understanding where all have shelter and resources for a healthy life. To donate and for more information on the MHC, visit www.mountainhomelesscoalition.com, visit their Facebook page or call (909) 713-4099.