Having a chronically ill child isn’t just physically and emotionally draining; it can also take a toll on your finances. Specialists might not be available in your area, which can mean repeated trips farther away to seek expert care.
With some medical conditions, commercial travel isn’t even an option. Such is the case for two-year-old Jack Hogan from Virginia. He suffers from a variety of afflictions that would make flying on a plane with many other passengers stressful and hazardous. Nonetheless, Jack needs regular treatment, and the best available is some 700 miles away at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Enter Aero Angel, a charity organization that provides free flights for chronically ill children.
“A lot of our families are coming to us through referrals. Whether that’s other families or sometimes social workers in the hospitals,” says Brittany Baillargeon, Aero Angel’s Special Projects Director. They’re just directed to our website, aeroangel.org, and they fill out a flight request form and then upload a letter of medical necessity. It’s free to all families. All of our costs are covered through donors.”
Aero Angel is not an air ambulance service but does offer unlimited free flights to children in need of private transportation to appointments at specialist medical centers. The service is nationwide, and last year alone made about 70 flights.
“We have a database of about 250 jet donors across the U.S.,” says Baillargeon. “So anything from private owners to corporations. And all of the flights that we do for Aero Angel are donated to us. Sometimes for last-minute flights, we have to hire through a charter company. But all of the pilots are volunteer professional pilots.”
For families like the Hogan’s, Aero Angel is a gift. It provides their son with safe flights and alleviates a vast chunk of the stress and financial burden that goes with transporting a chronically ill child.
“Aero Angels is an absolute lifesaver for us,” says Jack’s father, Mark Hogan. “We attribute so much of Jack’s progress to their generosity and the incredible mission that they support families like us that need to go to these specialized centers like Boston Children’s. [We] really would not have any option at all because insurance doesn’t cover this kind of transportation for our son. So, it’s been absolutely critical to his well-being.”