I am a member of the Bay Area Sundowners, a world-renowned sport kite show team that has attended and entertained at virtually every “Southern Oregon Kite Festival” since its inception in 1993.
That’s 26 years by my calendar and unfortunately Father Time has not forgotten about us. We are now much older than we were when we attended our first “Southern Oregon Kite Festival” (SOKF) held at the Port of Brookings Harbor in 1994.
As you can well imagine, a lot has changed for us over that period of time, health notwithstanding.
My teammate, Gordon (who is firstly my brother), was diagnosed with cancer three years ago after returning home from the SOKF in 2017. The radiation and chemotherapy took so much out of him that it was truly a miracle he was able to stand with us and perform at the 2018 SOKF event.
Unfortunately, the treatments have not been 100% effective and Gordon has been undergoing immunotherapy for the last nine months. While the immunotherapy has so far proven effective, it has also taken what little strength he had left, and with it his ability to fly with us ... at least for now.
Regardless, the Bay Area Sundowners returned to the 2019 SOKF to do what they do best, entertain with their signature “stacks” of red, white and blue Hyperkites.
It was a foregone conclusion that while Gordon had made the trip, his condition would not allow him to fly with the team. For the first time ever, since 1982, the Sundowners would perform as a three-person team.
But this is not about the Sundowners or Gordon per se. It is about the people and the community of Brookings, Oregon. For without them and their support, the 2019 SOKF would have been very different.
On Saturday, July 20, the first day of the SOKF, just after opening ceremonies my brother, Gordon, informed me his oxygen generator had broken. Very bad news, as he requires low levels of oxygen nearly 24/7. Considering the situation, we were not in an emergency crisis, but we were heading in that direction.
During the course of the day, I had help from many local residents calling on potential resources trying to help me resolve the issue by any means possible. I, in turn, being very mechanically inclined, spent the day attempting to repair the oxygen generator. By divine intervention, I was able to get it to run for short periods of time, which gave us hope, but by the end of the day it had failed permanently.
At this point, with the help of many locals, it was determined that we were very much stuck between a rock and a hard place. All local facilities that could render help were closed until Monday, save Curry Medical Center.
At 4 p.m., my brother and I were at the medical center. We explained our situation; unfortunately, they were unable to help us. The only recourse left was to go to the hotel, pack our things and head to the emergency room in Crescent City.
Doing so would mean the SOKF would be without its headliner for day two of the event and would leave the organizers scrambling. Unfortunately, this is how the 2019 SOKF would end for the Sundowners … if it were not for “the human side” of those who call Brookings home.
A local lady by the name of Kimberly Hanks made a call to a friend and explained our situation to them. When Kimberly finished her call, she gave me the number for Debbie Anderson at Cal-Ore Life Flight and told me to call her. Kimberly said that she didn’t know if Debbie could do anything for us, but it was worth a try.
With all of my hopes nearly depleted, I dialed Debbie’s phone number. When she picked up, I explained to her the situation. Basically, we needed oxygen or the Sundowners would need to go home and leave the SOKF scrambling.
Within about a minute of hanging up, Debbie called me back. She said they had what I needed at their facility on Cove Road in Brookings and to go there any time to get it. I thanked her, hung up and cried.
As I mentioned earlier, the Sundowners have been attending the” Southern Oregon Kite Festival” for more than 25 years. For us, it’s like coming to visit family more than to participate in a kite festival.
Occasionally, we are asked by those in the kiting community, “Why do you guys go to that event every year? What is it about that event that makes it so interesting and keeps you so loyal?”
Our answer has always been the same and this year was no exception. Rather, it was a clear representation: “It’s the people.
“They always make us feel welcome and treat us well.” To that, I think, we can add, “They take care of us.”
Thank you, Cal-Ore Life Flight, for helping the Sundowners stay in the sky flying over the 2019 “Southern Oregon Kite Festival.” Without you, we couldn’t have done it!
Thank you to the community of Brookings for your support of the SOKF. Most of all, thank you for being you.
The Bay Area Sundowners will be back in 2020!