This piece originally ran in the May 2021 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
For the past decade, Mike Dooley, EAA 834638, has been a mainstay volunteer in the Homebuilts area of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, working primarily in homebuilt registration. While Mike has enjoyed aviation for basically his whole life, it wasn’t until he retired from the Army that he was able to fully invest in the hobby, joining EAA Chapter 91 in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and ordering an RV-8 kit. Attending AirVenture for the first time in 2007, Mike didn’t begin volunteering until 2010 but has been at it ever since.
As part of his volunteering duties, Mike arrives in Oshkosh in early July and stays until after the conclusion of AirVenture. Leading up to convention, Mike and a few other volunteers work together to get the Homebuilders Headquarters building ready after a year of disuse. Working with Charlie Becker, EAA director of chapters and homebuilding, Mike and a handful of others also assist with a variety of projects across the Homebuilts area of the AirVenture grounds. In addition, the team helps with the organization of golf carts just prior to the event. On the Thursday prior to AirVenture, homebuilt registration opens, and Mike and his fellow volunteers are busy registering homebuilt aircraft as well as issuing wristbands and camping credentials to attendees, among numerous other tasks. Following AirVenture, Mike helps put everything away for the offseason.
Volunteering for close to a month every July for the past 10 years, Mike gives up a significant portion of his summer because he enjoys what he’s doing.
“I have fun doing it, or I wouldn’t do it,” Mike said. “I really enjoy the people that I work with, the other volunteers. They come from all over the U.S. and Canada, and it’s just an amazing group of people. We have fun together. We have inside jokes, and we socialize together. It’s just a good time, and I look forward to that every year.”
As someone who attended AirVenture for a few years without volunteering, Mike has learned that he’s gotten more enjoyment out of the event since he began helping out. He encourages anyone who attends AirVenture on a yearly basis to consider volunteering going forward.
“I would just encourage every AirVenture attendee to consider volunteering,” he said. “We do have volunteers that only work for a couple of hours. And then you have the crazy guys like me that work 14- to 16-hour days sometimes, and then everything in between. I don’t know anyone who’s volunteered that has regretted it. Take a look at the volunteer opportunities that are out there and find something that sounds like fun.”
Volunteers make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — and just about everything else EAA does — possible. This space in EAA Sport Aviation is dedicated to thanking and shining the spotlight on volunteers from the community. Sadly, it cannot capture all of the thousands of volunteers who give so much to the community every year. So, next time you see a volunteer at AirVenture or elsewhere, however they are pitching in to make EAA better, be sure to thank them for it. It’s the least we can do. Do you know a volunteer you’d like to nominate for Volunteer Spotlight? Visit EAA.org/Submissions.