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Making a Difference in the Lives of Families Facing Serious Illness One Ticket At A Time

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What does a patient do when they need specialized treatment at a hospital that is thousands of miles away from home? Often these patients are forced to travel for treatment without their families or caregivers, and the travel expense can too often be prohibitive. That’s where the LUV airline has the opportunity to step in.  Southwest’s Medical Transportation Grant Program seeks to lessen this burden by providing complimentary, roundtrip airline tickets to hospitals and medical organizations that then provide the tickets to patients and their caregivers who must travel for treatment.

Now in its fifth year, the program has quadrupled the number of participating hospitals since its inception and has provided more than 70 hospitals and organizations in 26 states with more than 18,800 tickets. This year, the Southwest Medical Transportation Grant Program will provide more than $2.4 million in free transportation to patients seeking medical treatment. To see a full list of recipients, please visit: www.southwest.com/citizenship.

Recently, Southwest Employees rolled up their sleeves alongside special members of the community to participate in a hands-on (and, I literally mean hands-on!) display of how we LUV making a difference. In honor of Southwest’s Medical Transportation Grant Program, Robert Fogarty of the Dear World photography project, photographed Employees and special members of the community with impactful messages written directly on their bodies. The Dear World project allows its subjects to speak simply and profoundly through photos.  
 
Dusty Johnson
Dusty Johnson, Southwest Employee, is a three-time cancer survivor.
 
Corbin Best
Korban Best, a patient from grant recipient Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, shows his confidence and perpetual spirit with the message, “I’m cool.”  And, his parents share that normal is different for all of us.

Don

Don Virostek, Director of Orthotics at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, reminds the world that he has no limits.

 
Todd Painter
Todd Painter, Southwest Employee shares his medical miracle with the message, “Liver Recipient.”
 
To see all of the Dear World photographs, please visit www.swamedia.com.

[PHOTO SHARE ALERT] Now, it’s your turn.  You’ve seen what making a difference means to Southwest, but what does it mean to you?  Let these photos be your inspiration, and we encourage you to share in your words (literally on your hands or arms!) how you make a difference and give back in your community.  We’re asking you to take a photo, tweet to @SouthwestAir, and include the hashtag #giveback no later than Tuesday, March 13.  We’ll pick our top five favorites and share them on the NUTS About Southwest blog on Thursday, March 15.  
 
Nathan Tyson
Nathan Tyson, Southwest Employee 
 
At Southwest Airlines, it’s important for us to give back, and we couldn’t be more proud to have the opportunity to not only keep growing this program, but to have the chance to make a difference and provide travel assistance during such a tough time for families.  In the last five years since the program began, you can imagine the stories we’ve been blessed to hear about and the connections we’ve made with folks along the way. 

Here are just a few sound bites that we’ve heard along the way from caregivers of patients and hospitals who have benefitted from the grant program.

“We are so thankful and blessed that your organization helped our family along with so many others. I pray that others can learn about this so they can help a child receive needed treatments.” – Caregiver

“We just want to say thank you for all that your charity has done for our family. We would not have been able to afford these trips to Boston so that he can get his medical treatments without your help.”- Caregiver

“All recipients of Southwest Airlines’ generosity greatly benefited from being close to family members or friends, which accelerated their emotional and physical healing.  We offer our profound thanks to Southwest for helping Barnes-Jewish Hospital provide truly exceptional care to patients with limited financial resources.” – Lisa Peckler, a Social Worker at the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO.

Making a difference and giving back is part of what we do here at Southwest—I can’t wait to see what you do!  
 

30 Comments

  1. I work for aTexas-based company (Epic Health Services) that also believes in the importance of giving back and making a positive difference in the the quality of life for others. Your program is amazing and you truly are making a difference in people’s lives. I will be sure to choose to fly Southwest whenever possible. The Dear World photography pictures say it all! Truly great!

  2. I have a 47 year young Down Syndrome daughter (she looks 20 ish) who lives in a special needs residential center in Chelsea (near AnnArbor, MI) that cares for 60 very special young men and women with Mental birth defects. Due to Federal and State funding cutbacks, this community and family members of these young adults have to due our own fundraising for them to continue to operate and meet their goal of $10million so they can build a new Special Assisted/and Nursing Home (the 1st & only of its kind in the US) to accomadate their present and future residents that will require that care as they get older. Our fundraising in past has been from various areas incl.the most recent (which they didn’t win – Coach Belein U of M Basketball Coach would’ve donated $100,000) to this facility if he’d been selected Nat’l Coach of the Year) I’m sure he’ll try again. We also have Silent Auction Events where we’ve had Airlines and their Customers donate Air Travel and or Points for our Silent Auctions. I would love for the St.Louis Center to be selected to have the ability for individuals to contribute their points for our worthy cause. My daughter has lived there now for several years, and loves it. It truly is a 1 of a kind place. She lived in a similar residential center for 32 years until they sold their property, so I get very involved w/this center for personal reasons as there are very, very few places of this kind available for individuals like my daughter to live, learn, work and play with peers i.e. her. Single mom of a very special daughter.

  3. Can I donate a travel voucher?

  4. Brooks,
    This is a wonderful thing that Southwest is doing for families that could not afford to be able to fly their sick family members at no charge. I went to the Southwest site, but noticed their are no hospitals registered for this program in New Mexico why is this?

  5. I hope you will open this program to family members traveling to places their loved ones have had emergency hospitalization, if you have not already done so. I remember 2003 when my husband had a massive heart attack in Minnesota, and I was in California. My daughter and I had to travel at regular short notice rates to Minnesota and be there for 10 days. During that time, we had racked up $179,000 in medical expenses, but fortunately I could stay with family members.

  6. In February, 2001 my son Michael received a bone marrow transplant for non-Hodgkins lymphoma at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore MD. I lived in upstate NY with my family but moved to Baltimore to be Mike’s caregiver during this process. We were there for 8 months. Mike was unable to travel the long distance back to Cambridge NY by car because of his treatments and complications. Air flight costs were prohibitive from Baltimore to Albany, NY. After 4 months of not seeing home, we were saved by Southwest Airlines opening a new run from BWI airport to Albany. We were able to fly for $80 round trip! We did it twice- once to have Mike be the sponser for his cousin’s confirmation- a very special occassion for both guys- and the second time for Mike to visit home in Cambridge. Mike died 2 months later and Southest flew him home for the last time. My family are faithful Southwest supporters and although we don’t fly too frequently, we also fly Southwest if possible. Thanks for being there for my sick kid when we really needed you. Glad to hear you’re making that same opportunity available to other sick kids and their families.

  7. Can we make a cash donation?

  8. I have a reward ticket to expire 3-30-2012 that I can not use. Can it be donated to someone that could use for emergancy air travel?

  9. Can a SWA Customer donate money to the program? I would like to increase the number of recipients helped by this program. Nonetheless, if it were possible, then whom would I contact to get this accomplished?

    Thank you for your time and continued excellence in customer service, always going beyond the call of duty.

    Sincerely,
    Lazarus
    Business Select Customer

  10. Can a SWA customer donate money to this program and increase the amount of people that can be helped? Thank you for your time and committment to excellent customer service above and beyond the call of duty.

    Lazarus
    Business Select Customer