By Michael Cusack
Vertiport Chicago, the nation’s largest dedicated airport for helicopters, recently opened its onsite gift store – the Helipad. The Helipad is a retail shop for heliport buffs and just regular folks. Featuring a wide range of items from scale model helicopters to unique award-winning art, the Helipad has something for everyone.
In addition to helicopter-themed T-shirts and hats, the Helipad has a collection of items that should interest helicopter aficionados. Vertiport Chicago has collaborated with two amazing organizations, Rhino Air and The Chicago Lighthouse, to bring helicopter-related items to the store that help support their efforts.
Rhino Air is a South Africa-based, non-profit organization that works with game wardens in South Africa’s game extensive preserves to combat rhino poaching. Worldwide, all species of rhinoceros are under severe pressure as they are killed for their horns which are then used in traditional folk medicine remedies. Poachers hunt down the rhinos with assault rifles or poison, cut off the horns with a chain saw and leave the adult animals to bleed to death. Without the protection of mature adults, young animals then become easy prey for larger predators. If this carnage is left unchecked, rhinos could be facing extinction in a few decades.
Rhino Air pilots use advanced thermal technology (as pictured) to find poachers at night and then guide park rangers on the ground to intercept poachers before they can kill rhinos. Seen here is an image of the FLIR 8500 thermal imaging goggles in use, mounted on the nose of a Rhino Air helicopter. Because the pilots can effectively see in the dark they are able to fly much stealthier and track poachers unseen. Rhino Air pilots are experts in night flying with hundreds of hours of flight experience.
Vertiport Chicago supports the Rhino Air efforts through the proceeds of T-shirt and hat sales to Rhino Air. These proceeds go towards the support of aircraft, fuel, parts, pilots, and mechanics. When you buy a Rhino Air shirt or hat at the Helipad, you are helping in the global fight against wildlife poaching.
The Chicago Lighthouse
The Helipad also sells Chicago-themed clocks in partnership with The Chicago Lighthouse. The Chicago Lighthouse is a world-renowned social service organization serving the blind, visually impaired, disabled and veteran communities with comprehensive vision care and support services.A Chicago institution, having been founded in 1906, The Chicago Lighthouse is widely known for its pioneering work to provide jobs for the visually impaired, providing them with the ability to be financially independent and productive. Perhaps The Chicago Lighthouse is most widely known for its line of wall clocks. The Chicago Lighthouse began producing wall clocks in 1977 for sale to the federal government. Today, it sells to federal, state and municipal agencies, as well as to the commercial market. To date, The Chicago Lighthouse has built and sold more than 5.75 million clocks and counting. Chances are if you are in a state, county, municipal, or federal building you’ve sat in front of a Chicago Lighthouse clock.
The Chicago Lighthouse, The Helipad and Chicago’s own award-wining photographer Nick Ulivieri have collaborated to produce a line of Chicago-themed wall clocks featuring Nick’s art. Working together, the three-way collaboration continues to support the financial independence of the visually impaired.
These clocks capture the breath-taking beauty of Chicago’s spectacular skyline. The clocks are for sale at the Helipad in a range of sizes and dial designs, all featuring Chicago as seen from the air. Below you can see the images selected for the clock faces before they are assembled. All clocks come with a 3-year warranty and can be shipped from Vertiport Chicago.
In addition, The Helipad has worked with The Chicago Lighthouse to provide you with a custom clock service. If you have a picture from a flight at Vertiport Chicago or in fact, any picture at all, send it to us and we will work with The Chicago Lighthouse to create a one of a kind clock with your image as the clock face.
Nick Ulivieri-Chicago Photographer
Extending its work with Nick Ulivieri, The Helipad offers his work in a larger format, up to 6 x 8’, printed on fabric with a collapsible frame for ease of shipping. These high-resolution images bring home the sweeping expanse of Chicago’s magnificent skyline.
Rounding out its line-up, the Helipad offers a range of helicopter and aviation souvenirs from scale model, metal die cast helicopters to models carved in fine hardwood and on to diecut models of notable Chicago buildings like the Hancock or Willis (Sears Tower).
Next time you are looking for a unique gift you can stop by the Helipad at Vertiport Chicago 1339 S Wood Street in the Illinois Medical District.
While you’re there, consider taking a helicopter tour of the Lake Michigan shoreline for an unforgettable experience. My favorite time is at dusk so you can get spectacular lighting over the lake to the east or to the west, with the setting sun backlighting the City of Broad shoulders. Sweet Home Chicago. Visit our web site to view tour details and book your seat today!