Soaring in the great indoors

Connor Doran, who competed on America’s Got Talent with kite flying as his act, gives a performance at the Indoor Kite Flying Gala on Saturday, April 6. (Photo by Stephanie Blair)

Lincoln City’s Indoor Kite Flying Gala returns

LINCOLN CITY — In the first weekend of National Kite Month, a kiting event raised over $1,000 for local affordable housing efforts — and all the while bringing people together to have fun.

The second annual SOS Indoor Kite Flying Gala, the reincarnation of an indoor kite fest from days gone by, was held on April 6 and 7 at Taft High School. Sheila Stiley, executive director of Northwest Coastal Housing, first thought of bringing back the indoor kite festival when brainstorming an event for Lincoln City Community Days last year.

“I was thinking, ‘with the community days event, what type of an event would be fun to do?’” she recalls. “And I thought, ‘well gosh, having a kids event and having a kite flying event would be great.’”

So she reached out to a pair of high profile indoor fliers: Amy and Connor Doran. The mother-son duo are the team behind the Dare to Dream project, which travels around the country to inspire people to pursue their dreams no matter how impossible they might seem.

“Our Dare to Dream program,” said Connor, “is an organization that introduces people to indoor kite flying and talks about, you know, no matter who you are and no matter where you come from, you have the potential to do anything you want. And we spread that message at different schools and venues all around America.”

The inspiration for the project was Connor’s own life experiences. Growing up with epilepsy, Connor was told he would never be able to attend public school. And when he did, he said, he was “kind of a nobody … just kind of blended into the wall.”

But after beginning to fly indoor kites — which Connor was quite natural at, by Amy’s account — his confidence began to build. He decided he wanted to audition for America’s Got Talent.

But Amy wasn’t so hot on the idea. The lights, cameras and pressure are scary prospects to anyone whose child has epilepsy. But after he finally pestered her into it, they submitted an audition tape, were brought on and Connor made it to the top 12 before being eliminated. After this experience, the Dare to Dream project was conceived and pursued: the perfect mix of their passion and helping good causes. That same magical formula was what appeal to the Dorans about helping to organize the gala in Lincoln City.

“One of the reasons why we’re here this weekend is that we get to do kiting, which is something we love, but we get to do it for a great cause,” explained Amy.

Lincoln City is the first place that Amy experienced a kite festival, so it holds a special place in their story.

“I actually was out on the beach and ran into a kite festival here,” said Amy. “And the year before that, Connor and I had come down to the indoor kite festival that they used to hold here, and so we both got to try it, just like some of the people here today are picking up a kite for the first time. That’s exactly what happened to us.”

And, Stiley explained, Lincoln City is a hotspot for the sport.

“I will tell you what, kite flyers love Lincoln City … and they had not been able to come here and do an indoor kite flying competition in over seven years,” said Stiley. “In fact, this is the only (annual) indoor flying AKA competition in the state.”

American Kitefliers Association competitions allow national-level competitors to rack up points for the national convention, which this year will be held in Seaside in October. But the competition aspect is simply a draw to get more people involved and help raise more funds for Northwest Coastal Housing, which builds and manages affordable housing in Lincoln County while providing support for residents.

“It’s all about helping communities,” said Stiley, “it’s all about bringing everybody together and it’s all about information going out about the resources that we have.”

Stiley calls Northwest Coastal Housing “housing with a heart. With three complexes, the organization provides housing with supporting services integrated into the living component. They take in low-income families and individuals — giving preference to those leaving situations of domestic violence — and provides support for individuals as needed for those struggling with severe mental health or sobriety.

“The whole goal of having this event is not only to share something back to the community,” said Stiley, “but also to help us continue to be impactful within the community by trying to continue … with our programs and our services, but for our future development prospects as well.”

Admission was by donation and donated items were raffled off, which raised a total of $1,046 over the course of two days. The event is growing, and more information and updates can be found on the “SOS Indoor Kite Flying Gala” Facebook page.

More information about Northwest Coastal Housing can be found at www.nwcoastalhousing.org and information about the Dare to Dream project can be found at www.connordoran.com.

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