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Resources and Stories from Angel Flight West.

Remybelle Flies with Angels: Attending the National Organization for Rare Disorders Forum

Earlier this month, AFW’s volunteer pilots Mariya Anderson and Sanjay Saigal flew AFW’s passenger Remybelle and her mother Belinda to the The 2024 NORD® Living Rare, Living Stronger® Patient and Family Forum in Los Angeles, Calif. NORD stands for the National Organization for Rare Disorders, and gives people affected by rare diseases an opportunity to discover resources and compassionate support.


Jaime Pacheco, Donor Engagement and Events Manager with NORD says, “The Living Rare Forum is an opportunity for people living with rare diseases and their families to come together, often for the first time, to gain practical knowledge on how to manage their health and live their best rare lives.” The event gives attendees the tools they need to navigate the healthcare system and to get involved in research and advocacy.

After her flight, Remybelle shared her experience with AFW’s mission operations team and volunteer pilots, saying, “Like we’ve been telling everyone, this was an experience of a lifetime. Alexandro Ramirez (Operations Manager with AFW) was very accommodating, even coordinating ground transportation from home to our local airports. He was in constant communication with me to answer my questions and concerns.

“Our pilot Mariya and co-pilot Jeff (flying to Van Nuys for the conference) and pilot Sanjay (flying home to Oakland) were excellent. They were all so kind and helpful, and they even carried our bags and wheelchair, constantly checking if we need help or anything. They didn’t leave the airport until they were sure we had a ground transportation to pick us up.

When asked about his angel flight for Remybelle, Sanjay said, “Providing a simple flight home for Remybelle and her mom Belinda illustrated the everyday heroism of Angel Flight passengers and their families. Despite having to wait out the weather, they remained stoic and cheery. The inspiring strength of those battling rare diseases and the love of their families reminds me of the poet’s observation that no man is an island; we’re all part of the main.”

Volunteer pilots like Sanjay put our passengers at ease with their kindness and expertise each day. “My Mom and I were feeling nervous at first to fly with small planes because this was our first time,” says Remybelle. “But we’re glad we did. Our flight was smooth, nothing to feel nervous or worry about. We were in the hands of experts. Flying with Angel Flight West is like flying with Angels.”

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