Sky Hope: Saving Lives Through Flight

Nonprofit group uses social media to arrange free flights for cancer patients.

Aiden Big

Aiden Big

Aiden Lipscomb

When Aiden Lipscomb, a 21-month-old Virginia boy diagnosed with an aggressive pediatric cancer, needed immediate radiation treatments that are available only in a few locations, a unique partnering of general aviation and social media became the child’s best hope to receive them. Because of his weakened immune system, Aiden was unable to travel on commercial airlines, and an air ambulance flight was not covered under his insurance. The fallback plan was a 10-hour drive to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston – not a good option for the little guy.** **

Jo Damato, who lives nearby in Virginia, had been involved in a previous effort for another young boy who has since succumbed to brain cancer. She has formed her own non-profit organization called Sky Hope that works in coordination with Corporate Angel Network and other organizations to arrange free flights for cancer patients. The twist is that Sky Hope makes extensive use of social media including Facebook, Twitter and the NBAA Airmail forum to speed response. In Aiden's case, time was of the essence since he needed to start treatments in Boston when his blood counts were just right after his local chemotherapy treatments – a narrow time window.

Damato arranged a last-minute PC-12 flight to Boston through Meridian Air Group to get Aiden there about seven weeks ago. She asked for help again when the family needed a ride back to Dulles recently. C&S Wholesale Grocers in Keene, New Hampshire, answered the call within a couple of hours – one of four offers of rides. A privately held company, C&S approved the request “within minutes” said chief pilot Joe Briggs. Briggs and Nathan Jacobs picked the Lipscombs up at KBOS in their Hawker 850XP and took off at 3 p.m. for KIAD, arriving at 4:15 EDT.

Aiden's battle with cancer is far from over, but thanks to the generosity of the GA community and the power of social media and groups like Sky Hope, his chances for survival are markedly improved. You can follow Aiden's progress at www.rallyforaiden.com, a website started by his parents.