Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Two Sacramento Heroes Take Flight of Their Lives

Two Sacramento Heroes Take Flight of Their Lives "Hometown Heroes" Ride with the Thunderbirds

Sacramento County, CA - Two Sacramento area men who have devoted themselves to the welfare of children will take the ride of their lives this week as "Hometown Heroes" of the 4th Annual California Capital Airshow.

Rancho Cordova police officer Zach Hatch and character and sports coach Jason Harper will be strapped into the cockpit of famed USAF ThunderbirdF-16s Thursday for a thrill ride few ever experience. Zach Hatch takesoff on Thursday, September 10 at 3:30 p.m. and Jason Harper takes off on Friday, September 11 at 10:00 a.m. Arrive at least 30-45 minutes early to cover planeside preparations and interview the Hometown Heroes. RSVP to Karen Doron by Wednesday, September 9 at 5:00 p.m. if you plan to cover either or both of the flights.

These first-ever Airshow "Hometown Heroes" rides are part of Air Force Week in Sacramento, a packed line-up of events which will culminate with the two-day airshow at Mather Airport on Saturday and Sunday.

Hatch, 32, a resident of Folsom, was nominated for the honor by Rancho Cordova Mayor Dan Skoglund and others, who described in detail Hatch'sefforts to steer youth on his Rancho Cordova beat from poordecision-making to positive achievement.

Awarded a Purple Heart for a life-threatening injury sustained when hewas struck by a drunk driver during a law enforcement traffic stop, Hatch returned to duty committed to changing lives of the youth on hisbeat. His many efforts eventually led him to lead the successfulfounding and launch of the Rancho Cordova Police Activities League (PAL).

The PAL is engaging hundreds of children in activities like Jr. Giants Baseball and weekend hoops sessions with local cops, with the goal of promoting not only physical fitness and personal responsibility, butoffering alternatives to gang activity and violence.

"Officer Hatch has made it a priority to involve youth in positive programs which will build self-esteem, promote educational and physical fitness, and involve them in activities which will promote a positiverelationship with law enforcement and deter crime," said Rancho Cordova Police Chief Reuben Meeks. "He's making an incredible difference in ourcommunity."

Harper, a 37-year old El Dorado Hills resident, is the inspirationbehind Character Combine, a sports program that teaches youth sportscoaches how to inspire ethical behavior through coaching activities.

But Harper's devotion to using physical fitness challenges to not onlychange his own life but inspire others has included numerous activitiesthat have had revolutionary results.

For example, earlier this year Harper has raised $250,000 in cash, gifts and services for students at Oak Ridge Elementary School in Sacramento,where only 12 percent of children had health care. Harper ran 100 miles to raise money and awareness with the goal of securing health care for every child at the school, finishing his run on the campus. Today, 82 percent of the children are now enrolled in health care programs and the school's principal says test scores are up double digits.

"What these two men have done in their communities exemplifies the ideals of the Hometown Heroes program," said Darcy Brewer, executive director of the airshow. "They are every day, inspirational people inour community whose dedication to a cause is changing the lives of many for the better. They not only have earned the honor of soaring with theThunderbirds - they already do."
Hatch and Harper were selected from among dozens of area citizens nominated for the honor. Not only did they have to excel in making positive changes in their communities, they had to meet physical fitness standards in order to endure the breath taking flight.

The California Capital Airshow is slated from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdayand Sunday, Sept. 12-13 at Mather Airport. Tickets are $15 when purchased in advance and $20 at the gate. To purchase tickets and more information about the broad range of performers and other airshowactivities, visit

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