Mcdonald Press Release


McDonald Family Creates Lasting Legacy with REACH Helicopter Exhibit

SANTA ROSA, CA., September 8, 2014 – The family of the late Santa Rosa physician, Dr. John L. McDonald, has partnered with REACH Air Medical Services and the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County to bring an authentic air ambulance helicopter to the Museum as a permanent exhibit.  The once-active helicopter will be repurposed to teach children about bio-mimicry and air medical transport.

Founded in 1987 by Dr. McDonald, REACH utilizes helicopters and airplanes to transport critically ill or injured patients.  Dr. McDonald served as REACH’s medical director and chief proponent of “doing what is right for the patient” until the time of his death in 2000.

In 2013, the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County approached REACH, now operated by Air Medical Group Holdings, Inc., and the McDonald family in hopes of bringing a helicopter to the emerging Museum.  Collette Michaud, Founder and CEO of the Museum, imagined a helicopter being transformed into a dragonfly or insect – a perfect exhibit to add to the outdoor nature education space called Mary’s Garden.

Sean Russell, President of REACH, was enthusiastic about the prospect.  “We had recently retired our legacy fleet of Agusta helicopters and the thought that this helicopter, which served so many children in its time, can continue serving children in a new way at the new Children’s Museum, makes this a wonderful final ‘landing’ place.”

The children of the late Dr. McDonald were equally excited for a REACH helicopter to be available to children for exploration and education.  “My dad always enjoyed seeing children around the airport, peering through the fence at the aircraft. REACH has served a great number of families over the years, so having our father’s legacy recognized through a helicopter exhibit is a perfect fit,” said Dan McDonald, one of Dr. McDonald’s six children.

The donated helicopter will be transformed into an interactive exhibit, thanks to the financial support of the McDonald family.  It will build visitors’ knowledge of the relationship between flying insects and other flying creatures found in nature.  The exhibit will also inspire kids of all ages to imagine piloting a helicopter on a lifesaving air ambulance mission. Visitors will get a hands-on feeling for what it’s like to be a helicopter pilot and to help take care of a patient.

A large attractive sign located close to the exhibit will display an image of the helicopter as it originally looked before its exterior was converted into an ornithopter.  Additional images of Dr. McDonald, along with narrative describing the evolution of REACH, will provide visitors with an appreciation and insight into this notable local leader whose definitive mission was to better serve his community. 

Design development and construction are set to begin in September 2014 on-site so that visitors can watch the transformation take flight.  Michaud and staff are ready to welcome the newest addition to the campus.  “We are so thrilled and jazzed about the addition of a helicopter to our exhibit collection!  It will further establish the Children’s Museum as a wonderful family destination in Sonoma County.”  The completion of the exhibit is projected for early 2015.

The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County’s mission is to inspire children’s creativity and stimulate their curiosity to discover the world through playful exploration of the arts and sciences. 

The new $8.3 million permanent home of the museum is under construction at 1835 West Steele Lane in Santa Rosa.  Monies are still being raised to complete phase two of the Children’s Museum.


Collette Michaud
Children’s Museum of Sonoma County


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