The Florida International Air Show, which takes off Nov. 1-3, 2019 in Punta Gorda, is known for delivering high-flying excitement during its annual “weekend of wow.”
From the parachutists who open the show to the jet teams that close it, the airshow provides a steady stream of aerial thrills for the fans, according to organizers.
But what few people realize is the airshow also provides a steady stream of financial support to local non-profits organizations. After costs are covered, proceeds from the event go to support community charities.
Last year, the airshow supported more than two dozen nonprofits, from churches to veterans organizations to foster care programs. Over the years, the airshow has contributed about $3.5 million to area charities, according to event organizers.
“The charitable aspect is one of the best-kept secrets of the airshow,” said Dana Carr, board president. “It shouldn’t be. Since the beginning, the airshow has been committed to supporting local charities year in and year out.”
That tradition will hold during this year’s airshow. The 38th edition features the Air Force Thunderbirds jet demonstration team.
The airshow operates with an all-volunteer board of directors and no paid staff. The way its charitable support works is simple. With just a couple exceptions — the Make-A-Wish Foundation, for example — a nonprofit seeking financial support provides volunteer staffing of the show.
Each year, the Florida International Air Show hosts the Make a Wish Kids and Candlelighters at the Friday afternoon practice show. They get to watch the complete airshow that will be performed on Saturday and Sunday and meet the performers “up close and personal,” organizers note.
One organization might volunteer to handle parking. Another might provide golf-cart drivers to shuttle fans from the parking lot to the viewing area. Another might take the trash out after the show. In return, the airshow makes a contribution to the organization.
Members of the Punta Gorda Rotary, for example, have been working the airshow for years. Last year, according to Rotary past president Robin Adair, Punta Gorda Rotary received about $1,000 from the show. The money helped to support Rotary initiatives like the Paint Your Heart Out home refurbishing program, high school Interact clubs, the Punta Gorda History Center, and the St. Vincent de Paul food bank.
“They’ve done good for us,” Adair said of the airshow’s financial support. “We wouldn’t be able to do the work we do in the community without it. The airshow is one of our major contributors.”
Carr said it all comes down to connections. The airshow is produced by members of the community who support other members of the community.
“The airshow is put on by your next-door neighbor,” he said. “It’s one neighbor helping another. We are proud of our continuing commitment to the community.”