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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pilots For Kids

Fellow Delta Pilots and myself visited Children's Hospital last night to bring gifts and smiles to the little bodies facing medical challenges this holiday season.  A successful event that gave the gift of memories to many.

Delta Pilot Team
Karlene, Steve, Sarah, Donna, Cam, Jim and Doug

Captain Barry Sacks, who normally organizes this event for Delta, was called out on a flight and unable to attend. Thankfully his wife, retired Delta Pilot Sarah, took command and pulled it all together. Thank you Sarah! Cam, also a retired Pilot, donated his time for the kids. Joining him was his wife Donna--- our photographer. She took pictures that we handed to the kids. Steve, Jim, and Doug are no strangers to Pilots for Kids. They've all been visiting hospitals for years with NWA. It's great to see the combined effort.

In respect of the privacy of the children, no pictures of them will be posted. However, believe it when I say--- we saw many smiles tonight. Boeing supplied some incredible gifts for the children. Flight jackets, stuffed planes, toys, sticker, t-shirts, etc. The kids loved it.

And then I met some incredible people giving their time to the hospital, for the kids. Thank you volunteers!

Katie and Rein

Rein is an inspirational young man who, on behalf of his Eagle Scout group, collected 164 videos for the children. He was in the game room labeling them with his mother Katie, around 7 p.m. Thank you Rein for your donation--- and Mom for being there for support. 

Billy, also a volunteer, gives his time to the children. He told us that he "Loves Delta." Apparently he trashed his knee skiing. He called Delta, in Salt Lake City, and asked what he could do--- he needed to get home for an immediate RMI and surgery. Delta put him on the first plane out. No problem. No extra charge. They completely accommodated him. Way to go Delta! You have a loyal customer for life. And thank you Billy for all you do for the children.  I know they appreciate it, as well as the parents.

Cheryl and Kevin

We met Cheryl and her husband Kevin in the playroom. Two of their four sons were playing video games. One son was on his way to the hospital. But their 15 year old was upstairs with Grandma and Grandpa--- He'd had open heart surgery. Mom and Dad tell me they're all going home Friday or Saturday. Cheryl's been sleeping in the hospital with her son. Living in a hospital is a challenge. Emotional. Exhausting. But as a mother, there is no other place to be. So it's great when volunteers fill in to help. 

And tonight I met one such volunteer. 

Steph Wallach

Steph has been volunteering at Children's for years. She is now an "Auntie" to a three month old, and holds her daily. What did Steph do in her past life? She was a Braniff PILOT! And ended up retiring at Alaska Airlines. What an incredible woman.  Thus proving how small the world truly is. 

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the hospital---
I'd been babysitting my Grandson all day and told my daughter I'd bring him home. They just live 10 minutes from Children's Hospital. What is normally a 30 minute drive from my home turned into an hour and a half. Traffic was horrendous. The rain poured. On the way, my "check engine" light came on. I changed routing just to get off the freeway a bit early. I drove the baby home. Parked the car for 5 minutes. Got back in and headed to the hospital. The light came on again. But this time the temperature pegged at the red line. A couple minutes it dropped back to normal. Then popped back up.  8 minutes to get there.

I pulled into the hospital parking lot, backed into an outdoor spot, and the steam began flowing out  of my hood looked like I was on fire. I'd never seen anything like this.

Long story short. Cracked radiator. No water. When we filled her up and started the engine, she began leaking. Today--- as I have been on "4" other occasions this year--- am thankful for AAA! 

As my husband and I sat waiting for the tow truck to arrive, I realized how lucky I was the car waited until I made it to destination, and didn't dump all fluid on the freeway, in the traffic, in the rain, with the baby on board. And yet, when you've just been visiting 3 year-olds with cancer--- life really gets put into perspective. Just a car. Just an engine. Not arms and legs. Everyone is safe.

Have a wonderful day! And think about volunteering at your local hospital. They need you.

Remember to Enjoy the Journey~



  1. It's really cool that you did this! Folks often don't realize what it means to some of these kids when the community and companies show up like that!
    PS. You look pretty fly in your uniform too!

  2. Thanks Karla. Fly... that's a good thing? lol Yes--- it really meant a lot to the kids. And the parents, too. They're struggle at bedside is equally challenging.

  3. Another great thing you have done for the kids in such a short time, well done Karlene, keep up the fantastic work you are doing.

    Jo xx

    P.S. fantastic seeing a woman in pilots' uniform! :)

  4. Thanks Jo! The holiday tie is so much more impressive in person. :) The kids loved it. The parents loved it. A good thing.

  5. Car trouble really is put into perspective after this type of day! I have had similar experiences with Angel Flights... (Started doing them for the patients' benefit, then realized I benefit more)!!

  6. Thanks T.J. for the great insight. I think a lot of what we do, we too benefit. Angle Flights...that means you're an angel.

  7. Karlene that is an amazing thing you guys did!!! If there is one thing worth more than anything else in this world it's the smile on a kid's face! I can't wait to talk to my own supervisors about organizing something similar for work!!!
    Merry Christmas to you and may God return the blessings to your family 1000x in this new year to come!

  8. Thank you JD! That would be great for you to carry this tradition forward. Yes... nothing in the world is better than a smile on a child's face. For a moment, all their problems go away.
    Have a wonderful holiday and a joyous New Year for you and your family.


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