CINCINNATI - After Neil Armstrong's death last Saturday at the age of 82, his family requested that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Neil Armstrong New Frontiers Initiative at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Captains James A. Lovell, Jr. and Eugene A. Cernan were on hand Friday morning to help launch the new fund and to pay tribute to their friend. They shared some intimate stories about Armstrong and said this new memorial fund is the perfect way to extend his legacy. They also found unexpected inspiration in a 14-year-old boy.
Cernan and Lovell met Shane DiGiovanna before the event when Shane got the chance to ask them a lot of questions about their experience as astronauts. Cernan shared some encouraging words with DiGiovanna.
"You may very well grow up designing the spacecraft that takes your generation to Mars," said Cernan. "Think about that. You're at the right place at the right time."
DiGiovanna is able to dream and work towards becoming an aerospace engineer and astrophysicist because of the state of the art care he's received at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Young patients like DiGiovanna could benefit from the New Frontiers Initiative. Cincinnati Children's President and CEO Michael Fisher kicked off the official ceremony.
"All of the contributions to this fund will be used at the discretion and guidance of the family to help us do incredible things, the kinds of things that Neil Armstrong did," said Fisher.
DiGiovanna also spoke to the audience about his love of space and his hero Armstrong.
"When I was about 5, I kind of thought to myself, I'm probably not going to be able to withstand the rigors of launch and re-entry and stuff like that like Neil Armstrong because of my skin condition no matter how good this amazing care is," DiGiovanna said. "And so I thought, why not design the spacecraft that the astronauts will ride up in. So that's what I've been pretty much preparing for my whole life."
DiGiovanna was a tough act for Lovell to follow.
"And really Shane, I'm a little bit embarrassed to tell you the truth because he probably knows more than I do and if he and I were competing for flights way back then, I'm sure that I'd still be sitting down watching him fly," Lovell said.
Cernan added that his only regret was that Neil Armstrong couldn't be there with him and Lovell.
"I guess Shane, you're taking the place of Neil Armstrong today, is that alright?" Cernan asked DiGiovanna. "He would be proud to know that you're sitting in that chair."
Contributions to the memorial fund can be made to:
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Neil Armstrong New Frontiers Initiative
PO Box 5202
Cincinnati, OH 45201-5202
You can also contribute by going to www.cincinnatichildrens.org