More

Why this 1-year-old's private plane ride from a hospital was a special one.

'It’s really special to be a part of someone’s fight to survive.'

Why this 1-year-old's private plane ride from a hospital was a special one.

Meet Lakelynn.

She's a smiley 1-year-old who got to ride in a private plane after having surgery in Ohio.


She flew with her family from Cincinnati Children's Hospital to where she lives in New York state for a grand total of ... $0.

Yep, that's right. Lakelynn's family didn't have to shell out a penny for a service that would make a major dent in most wallets.


Lakelynn's ride was courtesy of Wings Flights of Hope, a nonprofit that gets patients from point A to point B when they need it most.

Wings provides free air transportation for patients and their families to and from medical centers so that distance never prevents someone from receiving the best care possible.

The New York-based nonprofit makes over 500 flights each year.

“There’s no better purpose to get into your plane [than to] take someone to a place where they can get better," pilot Joe DeMarco, founder of the group, says.

DeMarco, on the left, with Lakelynn and her father, Larry.

The volunteer pilots at Wings fill a critical void: They save lives by saving time.

For many patients in dire circumstances, time is not on their side.

“If we don’t take them, they’re not getting their organs — they’re not getting their heart, they’re not getting their lungs."

Wings is hugely important for those in need of transplants because there's such a small window of opportunity for a patient to receive care, the nonprofit's website explains. Patients who live in rural areas, for example, might be a great distance away from a major airport.

DeMarco said he can get patients to their destinations much faster than if a family were to fly commercial, and that can truly be a life-or-death situation.

“If we don’t take them, they’re not getting their organs — they’re not getting their heart, they’re not getting their lungs," he says, noting the service is also vital for patients who can't fly commercial due to their weakened immunity or they can't drive on their own because of doctor's orders.

Wings does whatever it can to make life easier for families in need.

Other flight services that do similar work can charge several thousands of dollars per ride, according to DeMarco, but Wings makes sure families are always taken care of, any place, any time — even for pre-op and post-op appointments.

“It’s really special to be a part of someone’s fight to survive.”

To families like Lakelynn's, Wings has made a world of difference.

Getting from point A to point B is not always easy. But fortunately, folks in need have DeMarco and his team of selfless pilots to make a tough journey much more manageable.

Check out Upworthy's Original video on Wings Flights of Hope below:

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.