Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, May 21, 2015 – “The sky is the limit,” proclaimed Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief as she boarded a JetBlue Airways mock flight today with fifty children who participated in the Third Annual Autism in Flight Program at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport.
The Autism in Flight Program began in 2013 after Commissioner Sharief was contacted by a family in her district with an autistic child and learned of the potential challenges they faced when using airports.
“Taking a family vacation with a child who has autism was often an impossible dream, I embarked on an effort to change that,” said Commissioner Sharief. “It is my hope that with this program, it is possible for every child’s airplane trip to be an exciting and joyous event for all.”
Commissioner Sharief, Broward County Public Schools, JetBlue Airways and the Broward County Aviation Department joined forces to create a real life travel experience for autistic children. Today, ten children from five Broward schools arrived at the airport, checked in at the ticket counter, went through a TSA security check and boarded a real airplane provided by JetBlue for a mock “take-off.” This year, the plane actually travelled on the tarmac for a short distance before returning to the gate.
“I remember when Commissioner Sharief and I met and started talking about what we could do to help these children and their families and that’s really how this program came to fruition. I hope it continues to grow year after year,” said Broward School Board member Patti Good.
“These children need to experience every experience in the world,” said Broward Superintendent of Schools Robert Runcie. “The opportunity to travel gives them that.”
Silver Lakes Elementary School in Miramar, Park Springs Elementary School in Coral Springs, Everglades Elementary School in Weston, Dania Beach Elementary School in Dania Beach, and Coconut Palm Elementary School in Miramar each sent ten students and a teacher to participate in the program.
“At JetBlue our mission is to inspire humanity. When you get on the plane and see the children smiling, that’s jet fuel for us! It’s a great pleasure,” said Jason Annunziata, JetBlue Airways General Manager.
The Autism in Flight educational program will be a recurring educational event at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.