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P.A.L.S.: Partnering Volunteer Pilots With Patients in Need

PALS pilot Adam Broun lends a gentle hand to heart patient Dawson.
Volunteers have flown cancer patient Wes more than 100 times.

Advancements at the country’s leading hospitals help provide life-saving treatments not available in many remote locations. So what do you do if you’re hundreds of miles from an urban center and badly in need of advanced medical care? Enter Patient Airlift Services (PALS).

The non-profit organization bridges the gap for patients when insurance offers to cover the cost of medical services but at centers sometimes hundreds of miles away. For families on limited incomes, the cost and time of getting to those facilities is often insurmountable. The more than 300 volunteer pilots PALS works with not only fly patients and families to their destination for treatment at no cost, but also are on hand to drive them from their front door to the tarmac to the hospital. “If we can’t get you from your house to the airport, or from the airport to your treatment, then the flight doesn’t mean anything,” says Brian Lisoski, an organization board member and a volunteer pilot.

Bringing Hope
“PALS is doing nothing shy of miracles with these flights,” says Lisa Walpole, whose daughter Taylor utilized PALS pilots to fly from the family’s home in Oswego to Long Island to treat Taylor’s congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a condition that affects a person’s ability to make vital hormones. “Every person, every pilot, every smile makes a difference. There really are no accurate words to portray adequately what PALS does; [it] is changing lives in ways no one else can.”

Always A Need
Since its inception, the organization has arranged more than 10,000 flights and served more than 2,200 passengers.  “One of the most gratifying benefits has been to meet, serve and become friends with some of our nation’s heroes through our PALS for Patriots Program,” says PALS Executive Director Eileen Minogue.

The service is available to patients of all ages, military personnel and their families, and caters to those battling any number of ailments. “We truly treat our passengers like family; it is at the heart of what we do,” says Minogue. “When my nephew was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 26, all he wanted to know when he interacted with healthcare professionals, was ‘Do you have me?’ meaning ‘Am I not a number? Will you treat me as you would a family member?’ That is what we do here at PALS; we ‘have you,’ and our patients are like family. The relief our service gives is palpable and immediate.”

Lifting Off
The organization is run completely by donation so it makes fundraisers, like the Above & Beyond Gala on November 4 at Tamarack Country Club in Greenwich, CT, vital for the future of the organization. “We need funding to get the flights in the air,” says Minogue. “We want people to know that our service exists and we need funding to sustain what we do. Hopefully, our event in Greenwich will be another success as it has been in the past, but we would love to see some new faces and find some new ‘PALS’!”-Jill Sieracki 

How to Help
Pilots: Reach out to donate your services!
Drivers: If you’re in an urban area, you can volunteer with the organization’s “Auto” Pilots program to get people from
home to the airport or an airport to a treatment center.
Philanthropists: Donate !Visit to make a donation to the organization, or for more information on other ways to volunteer.

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