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2017 AKA Election
Presidential Candidate Bio
Nicole O’Neill
A year ago I was asked if I wanted to step up to the challenge of running the American Kitefliers Association. From the start I knew that if I committed myself to this, it would not be something that I could realistically finish in a single year. With so much history, and the changing landscape outside of the AKA it was imperative that a full multi-year plan be formulated before I threw my name in for the running. The first year was meant to be a year of learning, a year of understanding how the organization works. It was a time for fine tuning some aspects and generally ‘keeping the doors open and lights on’. Subsequent years would be years of building, change, and evolving. If re-elected this coming year I intend to start pushing forward with the necessary changes to bring this organization up to speed.

The successes of this year are not fully mine, nor should I take full credit for them. I full heartedly believe that as a leader my job is to empower everyone else to try new things and find their own levels of success.
In the last year we launched 2 t-shirt fundraisers that brought in $2120 for the general fund. National Kite Month has brought in almost $250, all of which is directly returned to funding outreach efforts. While National Kite Month was not originally intended to generate profit, given the previous overall budgetary concerns, it was prudent to seize the opportunity that it could fund itself. Additionally, with the launch of the Rich Comras Memorial Fund, the AKA was able to solicit nearly $23,000 in donations. The size of the fund is larger than has been dealt with previously, so the folks overseeing it are making sure every I is dotted and T crossed before moving forward. It has the potential to show the world not only how flying a kite can be amazing, restorative, and educational; but it can also show how loving and exceptional our community is.

Social Media continues to grow and our engagement with people outside of our community has increased. In the last year our interactions on Social Media has increased by 18%, and our reach has seen an increase to upwards of 10,000 unique individuals in a given week (up by ~12%). Our Twitter and Google plus accounts have seen increased traffic, so has our Youtube and Vimeo channels.  In the coming months our Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, and other secondary accounts are set to go through a full rebranding that will target the 18-45yr old demographic. Traffic to the website has increased significantly as we add more content to the blog. Throughout the year I tasked the webmaster to ‘find-fix-and-repair’ where he could, and in the interim he has come out with a plan for a full overhaul that will not only ease use for our members, but make it more engaging for our non-members.

Going forward my intention is to bring the AKA more in line with other non-profit organizations. Take it from being a ‘club’ and move it into being an organization that people can stand by. An organization that pushes for change and acts as an ‘advocate for kite flying’. It is time for the AKA to evolve into something that people outside of our community want to support. I intend to pursue grant funding for our educational programs, increase our outreach, revamp and revitalize our sport kite community, and bring more focus to our members.
Region 2 Candidate Bio
Kurtis Jones
My name is Kurtis Jones. I am an avid kiteflier and videographer who was drafted and served as region 2 AKA Director for part of 2017.
Whenever I am asked about how I got started in kiting (not counting when I was seven years of age), I respond  that my passion for big kites began in the mid-1980’s in Kauai, Hawaii when I was running sound for a kite festival and met “Top Of The Line” and other flyers. The first stunt kite put in my hands had been part of a kite fighting game with four foot tails attached with velcro. The winner had only to detach the tails from the other person’s kite. That was it! I was hooked!  I quickly moved on to Hawaiian Chevron and others thus beginning what is now my history.
In the 1990’s, Liberty State Park, NJ caught my attention as an awesomely, beautiful location in which to fly.  There, I met Dennis Smith and Rich Javens who introduced me to the existence of the AKA, the Eastern League Sport Kite Competitions, and various other competitions.
From 1992 through 2000, I competed in and won several regional sport kite championships.  MC’d and supplied sound for the new Long Beach Island Kite Festival in New Jersey, as well as the Newport Kite Festival for over a decade continuing through this year.  
Produced DVDs and created Youtubes for the following:   
American Kitefliers Association’s Conventions, Kuwait Celebrates 50 Years of its Constitution (with Kiteman Productions), Utah’s Antelope Island’s Stampede Festival, kite videos for Newport Kite Festival, Liberty Remembers 911, A Kitefliers Tribute, Wildwood Kite Festival dinner movies, Music videos, Instructional videos, Revolution kites videos, iQuad kite team videos, and a host of others.  Many of which can be seen on Vimeo and Youtube under “Alive Archives”.
From 2000 to the current day, I’ve helped organize and successfully produced kite shows and festivals. My latest endeavor is the Wind Wolves, a traveling kite show which hosted its premier event, Sky Art Kite Festival @ Liberty State Park 2017 earlier this year.   
The primary goal of Wind Wolves is to fill a void in kiting in the locale of northern New Jersey by introducing the sport to people of all ages and ultimately to keep this superb sport alive.   
Region 5 Candidate Bio
John Graves
I started flying kites at the first Airwaves Festival here in West Chester.  I was working a high stress job in a state mental hospital on an all-male forensic unit.  I needed something to de-stress on weekends.  I became aware of others who enjoyed this hobby and decided to join in.  I became a member of PIGS Aloft and started flying kites on a more frequent basis.  All this happened about 15 years ago.  Since the original kite purchase of an eleven dollar pocket sled, my kite supply has grown, as has the size of the kites I fly.  Pocket sled to 81 foot Power Sled and beyond.  Even the laundry has grown to my own flying pig.  
I find that flying kites brings out people, many who say “I used to fly kites as a kid” as well as many kids who are flying their first kites.  I enjoy all facets of the hobby, either observing, as in dual and quad-line kites, kite making (my seams are getting straighter) and single line kites, large and small.  What I enjoy most about kite flying is getting out to the festivals and monthly flies and just talking with people.  It doesn’t matter what level of experience they may have, it is the fun of playing with the wind and putting some color in the sky.
John Graves
Region 8 Candidate Bio
Jason McCaleb
My name is Jason McCaleb.  I was born (1975) and raised in Topeka, Kansas.  As a kid I was a huge airplane fanatic and liked the Superbatics Airshow in my city.  I loved taking pictures of the planes and putting them in albums to look at later.  I still have most of the photos I took as a child.  Eventually the airshow stopped coming to town and I began to hunt for something else.  Topeka is home of a pretty large balloon festival called the Huff n Puff that I also enjoyed as a kid, so I started going to that more frequently.  I had seen a few kites over the years at the festival but never had one myself.  Not even in my recollection of my childhood do I recall having a kite.  
My first experience with kites was in 2005 at the Twisted Lines Kite Festival in Topeka.  They no longer have it but I would love to see Region 7 try to bring it back!  I was driving on the interstate about 7 miles away from the place where it was held and I saw an enormous “something” in the sky.  I had a friend with me so I ask if he minded riding to check it out, so we did.
We drove until we found it and I could not believe the size of the kite I was watching.  I still couldn’t tell you who made it, but it was huge.  The gentleman flying said it had pulled his Dodge pickup across asphalt before in a good gust of wind.  Looking at the truck, then back at the kite I recall taking a step back from it all.  This event sparked my fascination but it would not start my kite flying.  I was really only interested in taking photographs.
In 2012 I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma and within days I saw a news story about a kite festival.  I was excited to see they had a festival here so I drove up there.  It was a dreary, rainy day but sure enough the Tulsa Wind Riders were getting set up for a festival.  I ask if I could help and that’s the end of the story.  
I had no idea that I would become a kite flier.  I had no idea that I would later ask if I could help promote their kite club.  It just all came to be, and I can’t imagine not doing it now.
In trying to spread the word about the local kite club I started to get emails from elementary schools and parks and city councils asking if we would be willing to come and do a demonstration or teach a class on kites.  This process has since multiplied into something I had never expected.  It is very time consuming and there is no pay, but there is reward.  Like I mentioned before, I just can’t imagine not doing this.
I feel that Regional Director is just a title.  In my club we have a saying that you are a member once you do the duties of the President.  Anyone can be the Regional Director, but do you truly want to give to it?  One thing I love about Region 8 is it has so many members that are contributing lots of time to promote kiting in their area.  I don’t necessarily want to direct anyone on what they should be doing, but instead I like to create something for others to mimic.   Even what I do can be done better, and being a part of the AKA allows me to get feedback from those who have done it much longer than myself.  It is very rewarding to see each event I interact with get better each time from the things I learn from you all.
It has been a pleasure interacting and corresponding with each and everyone one of you in Region 8 and I hope that you will have me again.
Jason McCaleb
Region 8 Candidate Bio
Phillip ER Whitaker
I enjoy flying kites, making kites, attending kite festivals, and organizing kite events.  Mostly I enjoy being around people who are having fun with kites. My home field is Enid, Oklahoma where Convention 2012 and 2015 were held. After hosting two national kite events, the local people asked to have “Kites Over Enid” brought back as an annual festival. Along with the festival, we hold kite making workshops at the local children’s museum and in various public school classrooms.
Currently, I hold the office of the Association’s Vice President #1, handling membership concerns and retention.  I also Chair the Annual Meeting and National Convention Committee. When I am not organizing our local annual festival or coordinating the AKA Annual Meeting, I enjoy traveling to area festivals to fly kites and help people experience the enthusiasm of feeling the pull of a kite on the other end of the line.
As your Region 8 Director I will connect you, 1)  to what is happening in the region; 2)  to each other; and 3)  to the larger AKA membership population. I want to be your resource for news and information within our region and the Association.

Region 10 Candidate Bio
Andrew Cimburek
Hello, my name is Andrew and I have been addicted to kite flying for 20 years. It all started when I was 10. My family was spending a weekend in Ocean Shores,
Washington, and while we were down on the beach I saw a man flying a stack of kites. I was mesmerized, standing and watching him fly for a good half hour. At one point he looked at me and asked if I wanted to try it, and I hesitantly said yes. My dad looked at him and said he was crazy, I would break the kites. “They are just kites, they can be fixed.” I now have that same stack of Beetles that were the first kites I flew 20 years ago.
I am from Redmond, Washington and now live in Everett, Washington with my wife and two dogs. I have loved flying kites from one. When I started flying two decades ago we had ten to 15 flyers in each discipline, 40 to 50 flyers over a whole weekend event, and at least a hundred people showing up just to fly. For me, these were the golden days of kite flying. I have competed in dual-line, quad-line, individual, pairs, indoor and outdoor. I haven’t competed recently, but I have always been involved when possible as an announcer at events across the Pacific Northwest. I love using my voice to bring people into our events and provide them with the necessary information for them to understand what they are watching on the field and all around a kiting event. Now I want to use my voice as a young(er) sport kite flyer to help the AKA grow again as the Region 10 Director. How? As I said, I like to use my voice, and I want to be the voice of the Pacific Northwest at AKA meetings. I am sure I’m not the only person with ideas for how to build the sport of kiting from our region, and as much as the AKA wants to hear those ideas, it is impossible to filter through so many emails or phone calls or letters and get ideas put into practice. So let me be the sounding board for us. Let me bring your ideas to the rest of the league.
We cannot keep doing the same things we’ve been doing for the last two decades and expect things to grow again. We have to change with the times, and the time to change is now. Allow me to be our region director and let’s start that change together.