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GARY — Azariah Avery was a little terrified as she boarded the helicopter Thursday evening at the Gary Municipal Airport.

"This will be my first time in a helicopter," said the Merrillville Boys & Girls club member and Lake County Youth of the Year. "I'm terrified of heights but I want to experience this flight."

Avery, along with others, got to take a short flight around Gary and surrounding areas as part of the Night of Flight to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana.

"It was amazing," Avery said. "The view was so beautiful up there."

Dominique Watts, 16, of Gary thought the flight was fun.

"While I was up there I looked at my career choices and want to do something with aviation," Watts said.

This invitation-only event , presented by American Licorice Company, benefited all the youth who attend the clubs. Adults were treated to music, helicopter rides and music. Some of the club members were also on hand to experience a helicopter ride and the younger youth got to meet Mark Jackson, a Boeing pilot and Norris Frederick, an Olympic hopeful Norris Frederick.

Jackson talked to the youth about looking toward their futures.

"A lot of people are here for you tonight," Jackson said. "You can help us discover the future. Think big and dream big. You can do anything you want to do."

Frederick also talked to the club members about his experiences as a club member and about bullying and standing up for others.

"I'm just an average guy with talent and I am living out my dreams," he said. "You need to discover your dreams and goals and live them out."

This Night of Flight event was the first type of this event for the clubs since the Porter and Lake County clubs merged and are now one. It replaces the annual Steak and Burger event.

"As a newly merged organization we felt we needed to create a new signature event," said organization President and CEO Ryan Smiley. "The board and committee members wanted a different type of event. This is different but we want to continue to engage our supporters with our youth and do something together."

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Community Coordinator

Annette is Community Coordinator for The Times. She has been with the paper for two decades. A resident of Hobart, she graduated from Purdue University with degrees in English and German.