SUFFIELD, Ohio—There's a sound dreams make when they come true—and it sounds a little like breaking glass.
At least, that's the sound the dream-come-true made for Savannah James when she christened Goodyear's newest airship, Wingfoot Two, by smashing a champagne bottle against its wheel.
For James, Akron is home. Goodyear, likewise, calls the city home, and as a result, it's not uncommon to see one of the company's blimps floating through the sky on sunny days or summer evenings. In Akron, you look up, see the blimp and know you're home.
“I still vividly remember what it was like as a little girl, to look up in the sky and see the iconic Goodyear blimp rolling by,” James said. “As I looked up in the sky at the Goodyear blimp all those year ago… never in a million years did I think that I would be standing here in front of you all today, christening the latest addition to this world famous fleet.”
James, an Akron native and businesswoman, has made a commitment to serve the community through the philanthropic work she oversees as part of the LeBron James Family Foundation, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2004 by her husband, Cleveland Cavaliers' star LeBron James.
It was this commitment to the community that stood out to Goodyear officials, according to Richard Kramer, company chairman, president and CEO. And it was this commitment to the community that lead the company to choose her as the one to christen the newest airship.
“She has a passion for improving her local community and inspiring young women to dream big dreams and achieve big goals,” Kramer said, adding later: “Savannah was the perfect person to (christen Wingfoot Two); It was a very easy choice.”
Through her work with the LeBron James Family Foundation, James has launched a mentoring program that supports and encourages teenaged girls as they work through transitional times in young adult lives. Her goal, through the program, is to inspire young ladies to set and attain goals that lead them closer to their biggest dreams.
For James, simply christening one of Goodyear's iconic airships is a reminder that “a kid from Akron” can grow up to impact the community—and the world—in unique ways.
“My biggest dream,” James said, “is for young people growing up in Akron, when they look up in the sky and see that iconic Goodyear blimp, I want them to be inspired. I want them to grow up knowing that they can be anything they want to be. I want them to be supported and encouraged in everything that they do. I want them to believe in their dreams and know they can achieve them.”
According to Kramer, Goodyear's blimps are a symbol of inspiration and innovation; they are visual proof that ideas can take flight, taking dreamers to new heights. Goodyear built and christened its first helium-filled public relations airship, dubbed The Pilgrim, in 1925 and has since then engineered and constructed more than 300 blimps.
“We are proud to have this majestic airship represent our 118 year history and our associates around the world,” Kramer said. “It's part of who we are.”
It's that close connection to the blimp that makes finding the right person to christen so important, Kramer said, noting that it was “an easy choice,” selecting James for the honor.
“As another kid from Akron,” James said, echoing the famous phrase her husband used when he returned to his hometown to play basketball for the Cavs, “I am proud to be part of this Goodyear legacy, rooted in honor and tradition.”
In christening Wingfoot Two on Oct. 21, she became the fifth woman to help launch one of the company's airships, joining aviator Amelia Earhart (1929), astronaut Sally Ride (2000), International Speedway Corp. President Lesa France Kennedy (2006) and Robin Roberts, co-anchor or ABC's “Good Morning America” (2014). It is an honor that she treasures.
“I am very, very humbled and grateful that they chose me,” James said. “That is a very big deal for me.… Being an African-American woman I am very proud to say I am one of the women who christened the Goodyear blimp.”