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Wings of Hope plane becomes unexpected birthday gift

Wings of Hope
Wings of Hope President and CEO Bret Heinrich hands Melissa Smith the keys to her raffle prize: a Beechcraft Musketeer. Also pictured (left to right) are Grant Ross, Rachel Smith and Warren Smith.

On an unseasonably warm December afternoon, Dr. Melissa Smith, a vet from Atlanta, Illinois, accompanied by her husband, Warren; daughter Rachel and Rachel’s boyfriend, arrived at Wings of Hope at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield to pick up the plane Melissa had won in the aviation nonprofit’s fall airplane raffle.

Melissa recalled the day last August that she decided to buy the single $75 winning ticket. She had received a postcard in the mail advertising the Wings of Hope airplane raffle. She put it on the kitchen table in front of her college-aged son, Tanner, who was eating breakfast.

“I said, ‘Tanner, I’m going to win that airplane. I named it, and I claimed it,” Melissa said.

She knew that tickets would sell out fast. So she put a reminder alarm on her cellphone, and purchased a ticket as soon as they went on sale in September. On Nov. 16, her birthday, Melissa received a voicemail from Wings of Hope.

“My husband was home when I got the voicemail and I said, ‘Warren, I didn’t get a call the last time. I’ve won something,’” Melissa said.

She thought she might have won the raffle’s third prize, an aviation headset. But she had won the grand prize: a 1969 Beechcraft Musketeer Super III.

“It was the best birthday ever,” she said.

Wings of Hope raffles off two small airplanes annually – one every April and one in September. The organization’s September airplane raffle sold all 5,000 tickets in 18 hours, and raised more than $325,000 to support Wings of Hope’s mission.

“Melissa, Warren and their family have aviation in their DNA, which is why I am so delighted that they won this aircraft,” Wings of Hope President and CEO Bret Heinrich said. “The funds that resulted from this raffle will directly allow us to save and change lives, and you know, it is pretty neat that we have helped change the lives of Melissa and her family as well.”

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