Man battling ALS fulfills his glider flying dream in Berks

CAERNARVON TWP., Pa. - Tom Cioffi has dreamed of flying a glider plane for years.

"I would see this tow plane going on and thought that's pretty cool. I'd like to do this," Cioffi recalled.

It's a bucket list item that seemed unlikely to happen when he was first diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neuro-degenerative disease, three years ago.

"You never know how long you're gonna have with the disease, could be less than a year, could be five years," Cioffi said.

Cioffi, however, said he was not about to let the disease stop him from living his life to the fullest.

"When I first got the diagnosis, I didn't get depressed about it," Cioffi explained, "I said I'll just keep smiling. I'm gonna do whatever the heck I'm gonna do."

On Sunday he fulfilled that dream, flying in a glider at the Morgantown Airport while also raising awareness for ALS.

"He'll be first class in the front seat," ground crew employee Deb Schmeck said.

Cioffi, sitting right next to the pilot, had along with him a breathing device.

"To force air into his lungs, so we have a place to put that in the glider," Schmeck said.

After getting strapped in, it was time for takeoff. Once up in the air, Cioffi took the wheel for a few moments, helping to fly the plane.

"It's fantastic, like being bird!" Cioffi said. "It was like heaven up there. It was awesome."

Back on the ground, Cioffi still has a lot left to do with his life. Keeping a positive attitude and an adventurous spirit, his message to others is to "just keep smiling."

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