Today we’d like to introduce you to James (Jim) Churchman.
James (Jim), can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
We make movies around the world. Our team is comprised of stuntmen/women, actors, actresses, medics, FX professionals, etc. My career includes over 70 feature films, with an emphasis on superheroes. The work hours are long and stressful. So when we get a break, we take kids off the crew and harness them to wires to make them fly like superheroes. It puts a smile on everyone’s face.
One day in Montreal, we were doing just that. I look over to see the young girls mother in tears! When we inquired to make sure everything was ok, she told us that her daughter was a two-time cancer survivor (age 7) and they had not seen her smile in years… now she was laughing out loud as she flew through the air. They were the most incredible tears of joy. For years in the back of my mind, I had been searching for a way to give back, beyond just giving money. The universe was showing me something.
Then, Trevor Habberstad, a key member of our team was diagnosed with a rare stomach cancer. Eight months later he was gone. To watch this upstanding family try everything to save their son was gut-wrenching. It was worse for them.
So we have the ability to make people smile through flying like a superhero, how can we bring that to people who need to smile? The SMILE HIGH CLUB was born, now rebranded as Flying Hero Club. We cater to any child with special needs. Our goal is to make them smile and forget about any struggle they are going through. We video these smiles and give the footage to the families on the spot. To date we have flown over 300 kids at six events in under two years:
1) Dedicated to Trevor Habberstad – held at Brookview Ranch, Agoura, CA. Thank you, Tommy and Annie Knapp.
2) Held at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, GA. Thank you, Tyler Perry, Steve Mensch, and staff.
3) Dedicated to Marianne Lu’s beating breast cancer! Held at Brookview Ranch, Agoura, CA. Thank you, Tommy and Annie Knapp.
4) Held at Cabane à sucre Au Pied de cochon, Montreal, QC, Thank you Marc Beaudin
5) Dedicated to Anya Walker, my 2nd cousin survived and championed by her mother, Rose Braaten. Held at Singh Meadows, Tempe, AZ thank you, Ken and Lee Singh.
6) Dedicated to Hannah Elliot, held at Strand Brewing Company, Torrance, CA thank you, Joel Elliot and Rich Marcello.
7) ? it’s going to be good!
We are now actively searching for a corporate sponsor to help us extend our reach. Until then, we will continue.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Our original mission is to bring this event to children’s hospitals in order to make it accessible to kids who need it the most. The red tape involved has proven to be prohibitive thus far. But we are currently forming partnerships to overcome those barriers. It will take legal representation and other industry experts. That becomes a funding issue. While we have had some wonderful donations, I have personally funded the lions share of our organization. It is worth it, and I won’t stop, As we build momentum, those obstacles are shrinking.
The response from our events has been overwhelmingly positive. If you can put yourself in the shoes of a parent that is watching your child battle something so bravely, you want to battle for them but it is not possible, and now you watch them laugh and smile… it’s priceless!
Flying Hero Club – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We specialize in flying superheroes, both on and off screen. What sets us apart is that we bring the actual experience of flying to kids that may not otherwise have the opportunity. It is full of sensory stimulation and joy. To our knowledge, we are the only organization to offer this experience. What I am most proud of is our community! Largely comprised of stunt people, they show up on their own time! From daylight to dusk, they cheer these kids on with screams of love and encouragement! It truly takes an army, and ours is amazing!
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My career is in the film industry, we always strive for signature sequences – like the Bell Tower in Underworld, the kitchen scene in Xmen Days of Future Past, the Airforce 1 sequence of Ironman 3, etc.
But the Flying Hero Club is heartfelt!
Every event has multiple special moments. But before we had ever done an official event, we did a private one for a young man named Taylor Hammond. He was 10, and had been in treatment for 5 of those years, half his life! He made the decision to stop treatment and let life run its course. He has since passed. His last six months of life he got to meet Chadwick Boseman, Floyd Mayweather, and move to Hawaii. I am so glad we had the opportunity to give this amazing young man our experience. The smiles from that day are still some of our favorites!
- We never charge any family with a special needs child for anything, ever!
- Website: www.flyingheroclub.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @flyingheroclub
- Facebook: @flyingheroclub
Eric Van Arsdale