By Ed Runyan
The numbers associated with the Mission of Love trip taking off this morning from the Youngstown Air Reserve Station are astounding, as they always are — 60,000 pounds of aid on 20 huge pallets, 16 medical volunteers providing 45 children with surgeries to correct cleft palates in Guatemala.
And the huge, C-5 Galaxy Air Force cargo plane carrying the aid — nearly 250 feet long — is amazing just to see.
But equally moving are the emotional reasons people such as Chuck Scheetz continue to participate in Mission of Love, the 23-year-old organization run by Kathleen Price of Austintown that delivers aid to impoverished people around the world.
In a video on the www.missionoflove.org website, Scheetz is shown on a trip in October 2011 to Guatemala City, where MOL volunteers provided surgeries to correct cleft palates, a birth defect.
“We’ve been blessed this trip,” Scheetz said. “We’ve helped so many children. I think there were 28 surgeries — children you don’t recognize after. It’s been amazing,” he said, his voice trailing off.
Pictures on the website show how deformed the children were before the surgery.
Price says the children born with a cleft palate “can’t thrive” and are treated as outcasts.
On Friday, after the aircraft at the air base had been loaded, Scheetz said last year’s trip made him realize how little medical care the people of that region have compared with us.
“When I got there, there were 30 people there with cleft palates,” he said of the hospital in Guatemala City.
“I had to go into another room and cry,” he said. “I couldn’t believe the [hospital facilities]. It was the worst of the worst in the United States, and it was one of the best hospitals in the city.”
Inside the huge belly of the plane Friday, Price described the new and used items being shipped to the Mayan people of Tecpan, Guatemala.
There were 30 mattresses going to a hospital and a hospice that the Mission of Love will finish building on this trip.
There were pallets of equipment from two dental offices that closed in Warren and Boardman, including X-ray machines. Mission of Love is constructing the two dental offices in Tecpan on this trip as well, Price said. The trip will last nine days.
“They have no dental care at all. They get a bacterial infection and die,” Price said.
There were educational supplies from the recently closed St. Mary and Joseph School in Newton Falls. Those will supply five schools in Guatemala, including a school for the blind.
Other pallets contained handmade quilts, stuffed animals and clothes that each patient will take home.
“It’s a love story,” Price said of why she and the others collect and deliver supplies to places such as Guatemala. “They’re lacking basic human rights.”
Price spends months collecting the items — many of them used — that get flown to the area in need.
“We’re such a throw-away society,” Price said. “They don’t call me ‘the queen of trash’ for nothing.”
Master Sgt. Kevin Massie of the 910th Airlift Wing of the reserve station said the approximately 10 Mission of Love missions that have flown from the air base in recent years provide military personnel with “training for our guys.”
But it also feels good to help people in Guatemala “who really need it,” he said.