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Southwest Airlines Supports Youth Leadership

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Southwest Airlines maintains a dedicated group of local Employees in every city we serve who evaluate and respond to each request for a charitable donation that comes from the community. Southwest Airlines focuses its resources primarily on five areas of charitable giving: the Military and it Families, Families Facing Serious Illness, Youth Leadership and Community Involvement, the Environment, and Disaster Preparedness and Response. To celebrate the season of giving, this week we’ll highlight some of our memorable stories from 2010 in each one of these categories.

Youth Leadership and Youth Community Involvement are among Southwest Airlines’ focuses for charitable giving. We know that it benefits our Company, our communities and our entire country when generations rise up to address modern matters with a modern mentality.

When we were approached by the Encouragement Foundation earlier this year to join them in a journey across America to film a documentary about “what’s right with the American teenager”, we jumped at the opportunity. The Encouragement Foundation is a nonprofit organization that empowers and encourages youth to make a positive difference in their communities.

Southwest flew the Encouragement Foundation Team on their “7 Days Across America” tour to 14 major American cities, stretching from San Francisco to New York. What unfolded in those seven days was the unlikely story of deep compassion, perseverance and selflessness from a generation so often stigmatized with negative stereotypes.

On day one, they met up with 11-year-old, Glendale, Arizona, native Braxton Bilbrey who became the youngest swimmer to complete the 1.4 mile "Alcatraz Swim" (age 7) and the 3.5 mile "Around the Rock" swim (age 8)—around the infamous Alcatraz Island—to raise awareness for water safety, in particular childhood drowning.

Next stop: Lake Tahoe where they met 10-year-old Ashlee Smith, 2008 Red Cross Real Hero Award Winner and founder of Ashlee’s Toy Closet, a nonprofit that provides toys to children recovering after disasters. After a house fire devastated her home, Ashlee decided to reach out to other children who were in need after similar disasters.

To read about the rest of the youth the Encouragement Foundation visited and to view the documentary trailer, visit their web site at www.7daysacrossamerica.com.

We were incredibly moved by the stories of these youth and proud to support the missions of organizations like The Encouragement Foundation. To learn more about Southwest’s charitable giving and community involvement, visit southwest.com/cares.