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Patrick Springer, Published March 03 2010

Spirits soaring: Happy Hooligans spread wings for boy with cancer

Jordan Dvorak wore the green flight suit of a Happy Hooligan with a boyish bravado given to the occasional snappy salute.

On Tuesday he was declared a pilot for a day, seated at the controls of a C-21 jetliner, and made an honorary general in the North Dakota Air National Guard.

But the blond fuzz just starting to cover his bald head, and the pale cheeks made puffy from steroids, were telltale signs that Jordan is a warrior of another kind.

The 5-year-old Grand Forks boy is battling leukemia.

Tuesday, though, was a day for airplanes, fire trucks and pizza, not a day of needles and blood counts.

It was a day of small surprises, including the rush of air that filled the orange inflatable life preserver Jordan tested, as a squadron of his young friends from Creative Kids day care watched.

“This might come in handy if you’re in the pool,” Tech. Sgt. Darrin Quam said as Jordan’s cheering section shrieked with excitement.

Next a floatable tent, used by pilots who must ditch their plane over water, was put to the test. But the real fun came with a demonstration of a firefighting “crash truck.”

The truck’s horn, it soon became evident, works very well. The triumphal moment came as Jordan and his father piled into the truck for a display of the spray hose.

The Happy Hooligans’ “Pilot for a Day” program for sick children was discontinued in 2006, but was resurrected with Jordan’s selection.

“We just want to have them laugh and smile and forget about it for a day,” said 1st Lt. Matt Aiken, a pilot who coordinates the program.

“It’s an honor and a privilege that Jordan was chosen to do this program,” his mother, LaVonne Dvorak, said as her son sat in the cockpit of a C-21, a small passenger jetliner used to chauffer VIPs.

Jordan, who has been battling leukemia since August, is in remission and just started the maintenance phase of his chemotherapy. He takes lots of pills, often with apple sauce.

“It’s an awesome day,” his mother said as Jordan sat in the cockpit, listening to the radio on a headset, as his friends sat in the passenger seats of the C-21, ready for a make-believe takeoff.

A certain 5-year-old probably didn’t fully touch ground until he was back home in Grand Forks.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522