A teen pilot from McLean, Virginia, is helping hospitals local hospitals by flying out medical supplies to frontline healthcare workers who need them to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
TJ Kim, a 16-year-old sophomore at Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland, was brainstorming with his family on how to best serve his community. They eventually came up with Operation SOS – Supplies Over Skies, according to Associated Press.
Kim made his first delivery on March 27 to a 25-bed hospital in Luray. He was taken aback by its reception.
“They kind of conveyed to me that they were really forgotten about. Everyone was wanting to send donations to big city hospitals,” he told AP. “Every hospital is hurting for supplies, but it’s the rural hospitals that really feel forgotten.”
Kim’s goal was to deliver supplies to all seven rural hospitals in Virginia, which were defined as critical access hospitals. However, the flights will become progressively longer and if everything goes according to plan, Kim’s final flight will take him to Clintwood in far southwest Virginia.
Kim’s recent flight to Winchester to help supply a hospital in nearby Woodstock contained 3,000 gloves, 1,000 protective head covers, 500 shoe covers, 50 non-surgical masks, 20 pairs of protective eyewear and 10 concentrated bottles of hand sanitizer.
Dave Powell, the teen’s flight instructor, was blown away when Kim proposed the project, especially since he knew how disappointed and disheartened the student was with the cancellation of the lacrosse season.
“For TJ to be more concerned with the needs of others in his melancholy state just reiterated to me how amazing this young man is,” Powell said.
Kim fell in love with flying when his father, Thomas, bought him a flying lesson for his 15th birthday. His father is also helping him round up the supplies, which is the most difficult part of the operation, according to Kim.
“After I landed, all I could think about was going back up,” said the teen, who plans to attend the Naval Academy to become a pilot. “It’s a lot more free. When you’re driving, you have to be in your lane, watch your blind spot and everything.”
Thomas told AP he was glad to see his teenage son channel his disappointment into something positive, “something that combines serving the community and his love of flying.”
“The stars really aligned here,” he added.
Feature Image Screenshot via Associated Press