Volunteer Spotlight — The Shay Family

For the Shays, volunteering is a family affair. Spouses Bill, EAA 292424, and Margaret, EAA 1051869, have volunteered since the mid-1990s. Daughters Raquel, EAA 612853, and Sophia, EAA 1051870, joined in volunteering in 2009. Since then, the family hasn’t stopped giving help to the aviation community.

But how did this family operation start?

“So I started attending when I was not a pilot,” Bill explained. “I was an aviation enthusiast. I was in high school and we went up, and ’83 was my first year going.”

However, everything changed when Bill’s uncle bought a warbird. Hanging around his uncle, Bill began to talk to the Warbirds volunteers.

“I got exposed to the Warbirds security area and started talking to people and started volunteering with them,” Bill said.

When Bill joined the Warbirds security team, Margaret headed over to Operation Thirst.

“She wanted to get involved, and she really enjoyed meeting people,” Bill explained. “What I found out is after her first year of volunteering in Operation Thirst, she saw more of the airport and operations than I’d seen in the previous eight years going there as an attendee.”

Once Raquel and Sophia were born, the Shay family took a break in their volunteering. However, they still made the yearly trek out to AirVenture.

In 2009, Bill and Margaret realized that their children were old enough to volunteer. The whole family joined the business development group, though they don’t all do the same thing.

“My Sophia and I are on the A-team, the ambassador team for giving tours and working with the platinum sponsors,” Bill said. “My daughters and my wife worked a lot with the lunch tent for the vendors, and helping check passes getting things, and cleaning up the lunch tents.”

It turns out the business development group was a great place for the Shay family to be.

“The girls really just latched on … and really enjoyed the people they met and the people they would interact with,” Bill said. “And then as they started doing work during the show, meeting vendors and actually seeing them every year, and getting to see them, and looking forward to that, seeing them, and making friends with vendors …. They really kind of grew up in Oshkosh.”

Through volunteering, going to AirVenture truly became a Shay family tradition.

“The volunteering really solidified our drive to continue to go to Oshkosh AirVenture,” Bill said. “It became more about the people and less about the technology and the new things going on in aviation.”

Volunteers make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — and just about everything else EAA does — possible. This space in EAA Sport Aviation is dedicated to thanking and shining the spotlight on volunteers from the community. Sadly, it cannot capture all of the thousands of volunteers who give so much to the community every year. So, next time you see a volunteer at AirVenture or elsewhere, however they are pitching in to make EAA better, be sure to thank them for it. It’s the least we can do. Do you know a volunteer you’d like to nominate for Volunteer Spotlight? Visit EAA.org/Submissions.

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