Lee Goggin never met a stranger. At well over 6 feet tall, with piercing eyes and absolutely no hair, Lee greeted each member at my local gym with a smile and often an amusing comment about their conditioning. Lee was a fitness trainer at Sweat Dallas where I struggle to keep fit. But Lee’s struggles far exceed mine. Born with a rare genetic disorder, ectodermal dysplasia, Lee could not sweat or grow hair. The hot Dallas summers often forced him to douse himself with water or even duck into a large refrigerator to cool his body. As a child, he was often laughed at because of his condition.
But Lee took it all in stride. He knew what it was like to be imperfect. He was inquisitive, adventurous, and his ambition was to help others, including my son-in-law Adam, who is developmentally challenged.
In 2014, at the age of 31, Lee developed kidney disease. In failing health, his brother Aaron donated a kidney and saved Lee’s life. His challenges became the subject of several newspaper and television reports.
But Lee’s struggles were not over.
In February, Lee drove his wife Courtney and their three children, eight months, two and a half and four, to Florida. They stopped along a beach on their way to Disney World. Always an explorer, Lee began digging a huge tunnel deep into a sand dune. As the family prepared to load up the van for their drive, Lee needed just a few more seconds to perfect the tunnel.
Suddenly, the weight of 3 feet of sand collapsed on top of Lee. Frantically, the family tried digging him out. The more sand they removed, the more sand collapsed. It took EMS responders 30 minutes to remove him.
He could not overcome this struggle. At the age of 35, Lee Goggin passed away.
When I got the phone call I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do. But I owned an airplane and that’s where I started. I offered to fly to Orlando and pick up the family. Arrangements were made. Melissa at Million Air Dallas found out about the trip. Without me even asking, she discounted my fuel. I Ride Dallas, a transportation company offered to provide limousine service free. But first, the trip was delayed a day. The folks at Disney found out about the tragedy and hosted the grieving family for a stay.
At FL 390, on the way to KMCO in my Mustang, I realized that what I was doing was nothing extraordinary. Each day, owner-pilots fly wounded warriors, cancer victims, even adopted animals to new homes.
That’s what friends are for.