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Beta helps grant wish for Williston teen

Observer staff report

Dylan Leblanc has always been driven by a fierce sense of adventure. The Williston native obtained his Vermont Boater’s License at the age of 12. A year later, he earned his Open Water Scuba Diver’s Certification, saving up for a full year to pay for the training course himself. 

As a Boy Scout, Leblanc earned not only his Aviation Merit Badge but also the elite status of Eagle Scout through a project benefiting Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, just one of many instances of volunteerism he has sought out in the community. 

His ultimate goal to be a certified navigator of land, sea and air, however, was cut short when he was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer two years ago, between his 9th– and 10th-grade years. His survival depended upon a bone marrow transplant, which he received during the pandemic, leaving him in isolation for almost year, missing school, sports and time with family and friends. 

Dylan Leblanc piloted his first flight on June 4 with the help of Beta Technologies, the Vermont Flight Academy and Make-A-Wish Vermont. Leblanc, 17, of Williston, is in treatment for a rare blood cancer. OBSERVER COURTESY PHOTOS

When Make-A-Wish Vermont offered to grant him a wish, he chose to receive flight training needed to pursue his pilot’s license. 

In what was the milestone 900th wish granted by Make-A-Wish Vermont, Leblanc piloted his first flight on June 4 with the help of Beta Technologies and Vermont Flight Academy. 

That Saturday morning, Tom D’Urso, Vermont Flight Academy executive director, and Beta Technologies Co-Founder Katie Clark greeted Leblanc at the Make-A-Wish office in Shelburne to reveal that his wish was coming true and his first training flight would be that day.

“It’s not every day that we get the opportunity to help make someone’s wish come true. We are honored to partner with Make-a-Wish and our friends at VFA to make this flight happen for Dylan,” said Katie Clark of BETA Technologies. “Inspiring new pilots and sharing our love of flight with the community is what BETA is all about. We’re super grateful to be here at the start of Dylan’s journey to becoming a pilot.”

Several of Beta’s pilots and aircraft took part, including a Stear-man, Husky and a helicopter. Leblanc took off first, followed by Beta’s fleet, which flew in formation above Chittenden County.

“Today is a day none of us will soon forget,” said Jamie Hathaway, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Vermont. “To see Dylan take off on his flight with the Make-A-Wish Vermont office in the background was pure magic. We are so grateful to the Vermont Flight Academy and Beta Technologies for making our 900th wish possible.”

Leblanc’s friends and family were on hand for support as well.

“The whole Williston community has been part of his journey,” said Emily Malley of Make-A-Wish Vermont.

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