OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – A group of South Africans attending EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this week is leaving their mark on the Oshkosh community.
The group can’t bring camping gear onto the planes when they fly into Oshkosh, so they have to buy things like tents and sleeping bags when they arrive in Northeast Wisconsin.
They can’t bring the camping gear on the return flight either so at the end of the week they donate it to the Day By Day Warming Shelter in Oshkosh.
“I was once here in winter and I realize how cold it gets in this part of the world,” said Neil Bowden who helps organize the South Africans’ trip to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh each year. “So it gives me a warm feeling.”
Bowden has met people at EAA over the years who have connections in the community. A connection with Susie Martini Loker led to the idea that the camping gear could get donated to the good cause.
“It gives a personal connection that these South Africans, these international travelers come here and they’re giving a part back to the community, so it just has that connection of building that relationship,” said Martini Loker.
For more information on the Day By Day Warming Shelter in Oshkosh click here.
Martini Loker said that this is the second year the South Africans have donated their camping gear to the homeless shelter. There are about 120 people in the South African group this year and most of them are camping out in tents.
On Friday, the South Africans joined people from over 80 other countries at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh’s annual parade of nations which includes a march through the grounds and speeches from dignitaries.
“Pilots from around the world are really welcoming no matter where you’re from and you can easily make a new friend,” said Brett Williams who is one of the South Africans in the group. “We’re all on one planet together and aviation transcends our differences.”
The South Africans have been coming to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh since 1997. Williams told Local 5 News that it takes about 30 hours to make it from South Africa to Oshkosh.