16-Year-Old Flies Medical Supplies To Rural Hospitals
He might not have a driver's license, but he's traveling hundreds of miles to help people in need.
Like so many other teenagers, TJ Kim was disheartened when he learned that school and sports activities were going to be canceled for the rest of the academic year due to Covid-19.
Kim, who just turned 16, plays lacrosse for Landon School in Bethesda, MD. When his season was canceled before it even really began, he turned to his other hobby to keep him busy: flying.
Recently, he's been using his flight lessons to get much-needed medical supplies to smaller, rural hospitals in his area.
"There's a big emphasis at Landon to serve the community and so I talked to my dad about ways to fly and serve at the same time," Kim told the Associated Press. "We came up with Operation SOS, meaning Supplies Over the Skies."
As part of TJ's flight training, he's doing "cross country flights" (with trainer Dave Powell) to deliver supplies to rural hospitals in Virginia. @landonschool
Every week he's been flying to a different hospital to drop off boxes of gloves, masks and other equipment to smaller facilities that often get overlooked. When he made his first trip to a 25-bed hospital in Luray, VA, he said he was a bit surprised at how grateful they were when he arrived.
"They kind of conveyed to me that they were really forgotten about. Everyone was wanting to send donations to big city hospitals," Kim said. "Every hospital is hurting for supplies, but it's the rural hospitals that really feel forgotten."
While Kim says that finding the supplies is the hardest part, he hopes to make drop-offs at all seven rural facilities in Virginia that are considered critical access hospitals.
TJ says the hardest part is gathering the supplies for his trips. His dad, Thomas, helps him with that part. @landonschool
Kim's flight instructor, Dave Powell, said he was floored when he heard what the teenager wanted to do with his weekly flight lessons.
"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.
The pair's most recent flight brought 3,000 gloves, 1,000 head covers, 500 shoe covers, 50 non-surgical masks, 20 pairs of protective eyewear and 10 bottles of hand sanitizer to a hospital near Woodstock, VA.
Kim's father Thomas, who has been helping him gather supplies, said he's happy to see his son use his hobby to do something positive, especially since he was so disappointed when his lacrosse season was cut short.
"The stars really aligned here," he said.
Thomas bought TJ his first flying lesson when he turned 15. @landonschool
We love hearing stories about the unique ways that people are helping their communities during the Covid-19 crisis – especially at such a young age. Way to go, TJ! We're sure you'll make an awesome pilot!