Readyyyyyy….Hit It!!

June 7, 2023

When I was 8 years old, I had two dreams. First, I wanted a job where I could help people. Second, I wanted to fly a plane. It was 1990, and I had just attended an air show at the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Airport. I can still vividly remember the jets soaring up from behind and taking me by surprise. The roar of a fighter plane is something you never forget—it reverberates through your entire body! Like most kids, I aspired to be THAT pilot, the one who entertained the crowd with incredible speed and mind-blowing maneuvers. How could anyone resist wanting such an experience?

Fast forward to today. For the past 15 years, I have been serving the community in nonprofit leadership. My team works quietly behind the scenes, helping children prepare for school and providing housing assistance to the most vulnerable. We operate a countywide helpline and a tax preparation program. Another focus is on preparing high school students for college and career readiness. Last year alone, we served 1 out of 12 individuals in Monroe County. Every day, my team shows up, ready to tackle the toughest problems in our community. But to us, it’s more than just a job; it’s our calling.

Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from the Pocono Raceway, inviting me to fly with the Blue Angels. It rekindled the dreams I had as a young boy. The representative from the Raceway informed me that they planned to nominate me as a way of recognizing the dedication and community service of United Way. I was humbled beyond words. I couldn’t contain my excitement and laughter, reminiscent of that little kid at the air show. Then, I found out that I would be flying with a Top Gun graduate…That’s right…THAT TOP GUN. — any lingering nerves dissipated.

So, the day before the Pocono Airshow at Pocono Raceway, I returned to the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Airport. I climbed into the cockpit, strapped myself in, and within seconds of takeoff, this boy who had become the President/CEO of Pocono Mountains United Way experienced a mind-blowing 6.5Gs in a vertical climb corkscrew. Suddenly, I was an aviator!

The honor of being nominated by Pocono Raceway and flying with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels will forever be etched in my memory. But to serve my community with such an amazing team at United Way is also pretty special.

Come aboard with me and enjoy the ride!

– Michael Tukeva, President/CEO Pocono Mountains United Way