Seventeen year old Riley had already been diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer when his mother, Nicole, called us for assistance a little over a year ago. Even “the best of the best” at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester admit that long term survival rates for this particular cancer are grim, largely due to the fact that early detection is extremely difficult. But Riley and his family decided to do what great families do; stick together and fight. The Wings of Mercy team had the privilege of joining Riley in his battle by providing free flights to the Mayo Clinic from his home in Cheboygan, MI. January through November, our pilots took turns flying Riley and his mom or dad back and forth across the lake as he literally fought for his life. By December, everyone could tell that Riley was fading fast. After all of the prayers, phone calls, appointments, ground travel, air travel, sleepless nights and interminable days, Riley lost his battle with cancer on Sunday, January 14. Surrounded by his family, he quietly slipped away, leaving the courage it took to see it through to the end as a gift to those who loved him most.

It seems that when you know you are licked before you begin, you have to fight for something that is bigger than you are. It’s what Jesus did, and what he asks us to do. This battle was lost, but there is victory in the faith that brought us all together on Riley’s behalf, and courage, Riley’s kind of courage, for the battles yet to come.

Our hearts and prayers are with Riley’s family, friends, and extended community.

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
– Atticus Finch”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird