via the Florida Tech Today
Business aviation assets can provide critical relief missions during disasters big and small, but such efforts need to be coordinated beforehand to respond quickly in times of crisis. To get all the players on the same page before an emergency occurs, industry officials created Sky Hope Network, with the help of Joanne “Jo” Lomurno Damato ’97.
“It came about after Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. Starting something like Sky Hope just seemed like the right thing to do,’’ she said.
Three of Sky Hope’s founders were key players in the Katrina and Haiti response through an organization known as Corporate Aviation Responding to Emergencies. They helped coordinate more than 800 flights on business aircraft, transporting more than 4,000 passengers and more than 1.2 million pounds of critical supplies. Sky Hope Network takes the effort one step further, helping individuals, under its stated mission to “Use the power of business aviation to solve problems during emergencies and urgent situations.’’
“When people have assets like that, they want a way to help and Haiti and Katrina were largescale examples,’’ she said.
She added an example of a smaller project involved flying an ill child and a family of six to Texas for the child’s treatment.
“There are people out there who want to do good. We’re just the matchmakers for them. Sky Hope lets us connect the dots day-to-day,’’ Damato explained.
Volunteers still are needed to act as flight advocates, ground support personnel and administrative staff. Also needed are donations of flights, funds and time, she said. Sky Hope Network incorporated in Texas as a nonprofit organization in September 2010. Damato, one of five founding board members, serves as secretary.
“It’s very new. We realized that the whole aviation community could use their assets for good. The hope is the next time there is something big, we’ll be ready,’’ she said.
Being prepared to help in the event of emergencies is worthwhile for many reasons, Damato believes.
“We should all look outside our comfort area and look for folks in need. We should set good examples for our kids. This is a good way to inspire people and to give back. It was really great to see the aviation community rally together,’’ she said.
Damato is married to Robert Damato ’92, who is a pilot for a major airline. She currently works as director of operations and educational development for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). The couple lives in a South New Jersey suburb with their two young sons
Damato holds single- and multiengine Land Instrument Ratings, a Commercial Pilot Certificate and is a Certified Flight Instructor.
She is active with Women in Aviation International, Women in Corporate Aviation and the Florida Tech College of Aeronautics Alumni Board. Featured on the cover of Aviation for Women Magazine, she also writes a column for the publication called “The Juggling Act,” detailing the work/life balance of two-parent aviation households.
Sky Hope in Action: Alumni Social Network Brings Hope
Sky Hope Network’s Jo Damato ’97 received the call: a young burn victim needed a private flight from Boston to Miami for sight-restoring treatment— and Florida Tech alumni quickly responded.
At 14, Chichi fell into her family’s fire pit in Nigeria during an epileptic seizure, resulting in significant burns to her face and upper body and severely impairing her vision. Boston’s Mass General Hospital Pediatrics had treated her burns for more than nine years, and now a doctor in Miami hoped to restore her vision by repairing her eyelids.
Damato posted the request via Facebook, and within 48 hours, Chichi and her mother were on their way to Miami.
Alumnus Niels Kuyper ’02, pilot for charter airline Miami Air International, saw the request, which was shared from Damato through the College of Aeronautics Alumni Association (FITSA) Facebook page by Jason Terreri ’01 and ultimately through the Florida Tech Facebook page.
The generosity of Kuyper and his company allowed Chichi to travel on a near-empty aircraft, which eased her anxiety about her heavily scarred face.
Damato says she is grateful to her friends and colleagues in the aviation community who continue to demonstrate their caring nature through their selfless actions.