16-year-old TJ Kim can’t even drive yet, but he’s learning to fly. And he’s using his flying lessons to deliver personal protective equipment to rural hospitals in Virginia. The sophomore from Bethesda, Maryland, noticed hospitals were in short supply of gloves, masks, and gowns because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s all part of a program he’s called SOS: Supplies Over Skies.
It was his dream to become a fighter pilot in the Navy. Last year, during his 15th birthday, his dad got him what’s called a discovery flight. It’s where you go up with an instructor, and he shows you how the plane works and what it feels like to fly. And immediately he just fell in love with it.
In his flight training, he’s in a stage that’s called cross-country flights, which means flights that are more than 50 miles. Together with my dad, he talks with him about ways to come up serving the community and also doing these cross-country flights. They did some more research, and they found that there are seven critical-access hospitals in Virginia that we could fly to and provide medical supplies. They saw a need, and he just wanted to help.
Every week, TJ collects masks, gloves, and disinfectant spray from around his neighborhood. He communicates with rural hospitals about which hospitals are in need and where they need to go. He also talks with a flight school to get weather reports as they don’t fly in dangerous winds or weather.
His latest delivery brought 3,000 gloves and 1,000 head covers to a Woodstock, Virginia, hospital. TJ says rural hospitals are hurting for supplies too, and he wants to make sure they’re not forgotten.