At first, 16-year-old TJ Kim was disappointed when the coronavirus closed his Virginia high school and cancelled lacrosse for the year. But the sophomore wasn’t going to just sit around and mope. Having recently acquired his pilot’s training license, Kim decided to use his extra time off to fly medical supplies to needy hospitals in rural Virginia.
Now Kim collects gloves, masks, gowns, and other critical supplies that hospitals need to battle COVID-19, and then delivers them to rural hospitals that might might have trouble collecting these life-saving goods. Meanwhile, the young pilot remains shocked by how desperately some hospitals have needed his help.
“They kind of conveyed to me that they were really forgotten about,” Kim told the Associated Press of the grateful reception to Kim’s very first drop-off at a remote 25-bed hospital. “Everyone was wanting to send donations to big city hospitals. Every hospital is hurting for supplies, but it’s the rural hospitals that really feel forgotten.”
Now Kim (who has named this mission Operation SOS-Supplies Over Skies) has taken to making weekly flights to hospitals around Virginia. One recent flight carried 3,000 gloves, 1,000 head covers, 500 shoe covers, 50 masks, 20 pairs of protective goggles, and 10 bottles of hand sanitizer to be shared with a nearby hospital, according to the Associated Press. The biggest issue is collecting the supplies, which remain in desperately short supply across the country.
But hospital workers aren’t the only ones impressed by this young man’s initiative. TJ’s dad, Thomas, is proud of how his son — who hopes to become a Navy pilot someday — is using his unexpected downtime to do “something that combines serving the community and his love of flying,” according to AP.
Kim’s flight instructor, Dave Powell, was also pleasantly surprised when TJ proposed the air relief mission, especially because the teen had been so disappointed about the truncated 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. We couldn’t agree more!
Keep up the good work, TJ! You can find about more about Operation S.O.S. in the video below.
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J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.