Boy becomes youngest honorary cadet
By Senior Airman Naomi Griego, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 24, 2015
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Elijah Yeomans, a 3 year old, whose parents both work at Schriever Air Force Base, became the youngest Cadet for a Day March 6, at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
According to the program, "Cadet for a Day" is a cadet-run program designed to honor local children and families struggling to overcome serious physical challenges.
Senior Airman Amy Yeomans, 50th Operations Support Squadron, found out about the program through word of mouth earlier this year, researched the requirements and decided to apply.
"I got a response in three days saying we had been accepted, but typically, the waiting period is up to a year," said Amy. "A few hours later, they called back saying they had a cancellation and could get us in a few short weeks. It was such an exciting feeling."
Elijah, has been diagnosed recently with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He is currently undergoing evaluations for several other medical conditions and struggles with challenges every day.
"He doesn't sleep well, he has multiple seizures a day. It was just nice to be able to give him something back for everything he's going through," Amy said.
The cadets planned the day's events according to Elijah's needs and desires considering anything that might interfere with him enjoying the day.
They wanted to know everything about him, such as his favorite food, movie and what he loves most, which just happened to be airplanes.
Elijah accompanied by his mother Amy, his dad Roy and his sister Echo Marie, arrived at the control tower at the Academy wearing a personalized flight suit ready to enjoy his day.
"They set up breakfast in the control tower so he could watch the aircraft taking off and landing," said Amy. "He was mesmerized by the airplanes and he was so excited, he hardly ate."
They even provided three photographers to follow the family around so they could enjoy themselves and have those special moments captured.
Elijah received coins and patches from pilots, sat in the cockpits of multiple aircraft and also received a first class tour of the base.
"He probably received more than 20 coins and countless patches throughout the day," said Elijah's mom. "They even painted a mural for Elijah at the dorms of an airplane with Elijah's name and he left his handprints in red paint."
The boy even gave the command to more than 4,000 cadets to eat lunch.
"Wing ummm," said Elijah.
He was supposed to say, "wing take seats," but he managed to get the point across.
After lunch, the cadets gave him an airplane cake equipped with model airplanes.
According to Amy, Elijah became attached to one of the cadets on his special day and even started calling him his friend.
"They cleared out the theatre and watched his favorite movie, 'Big Hero 6'," said Yeomans. "And he fell asleep on one of the cadet's shoulders. It was so cute."
The day concluded with an after party where the cadets met up with the Yeomans family and played music for Elijah and everyone danced to the "Cupid Shuffle."
Elijah enjoyed himself so much he didn't want to leave but he told his mom not to worry.
"It's okay, we'll come back tomorrow," said Elijah
Although they won't receive the first class treatment again, Amy said the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they'll definitely return to visit.
"It's great the Academy has a program like this," she said. "It meant a lot to us as parents to be able to do this.
Amy said the cadets made her son feel like a celebrity. She said because of his autism sometimes Elijah can be ostracized from his peers.
"It's like he had a second family," she said. "He finally got the love he deserves from other people."