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A 16-year-old Maryland high school student disappointed that his lacrosse season was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic is on a mission to help small rural hospitals that desperately need supplies, and he is using his flying experience to do so.
TJ Kim, a sophomore at Landon School in Bethesda, Md., flew his first delivery by plane on March 27 to a 25-bed hospital in Luray, Va.
“They kind of conveyed to me that they were really forgotten about,” he said. “Everyone was wanting to send donations to big city hospitals. Every hospital is hurting for supplies, but it’s the rural hospitals that really feel forgotten.”
In this photo provided by Thomas Kim, TJ Kim, 16, loads medical supplies into a plane in Leesburg, Va., before flying to a hospital in Luray. Kim began delivering donated medical supplies to rural hospitals in need after realizing his flight training could be put to good use during the coronavirus pandemic. (Thomas Kim via AP)
His most recent delivery carried 3,000 gloves; 1,000 head covers, 500 shoe covers, 50 non-surgical masks, 20 pairs of protective eyewear and 10 bottles of hand sanitizer to help a hospital in Woodstock.
Kim’s goal is to make deliveries to seven rural hospitals in Virginia that are defined as critical access hospitals. The effort began when he talked with his family in McLean, Va., about ways to serve the community.
Communities across the country have come together to help vulnerable populations as many states have imposed stay-at-home orders to help fight the global pandemic. In San Diego, some police officers picked up grocery items for an elderly man while an Alabama man makes special deliveries of groceries, hand sanitizer and toilet paper to others’ homes for free.
Kim’s family calls the endeavor Operation SOS — Supplies Over Skies. The hardest part is gathering the supplies, Kim said.
The teen began flying after he was gifted a flying lesson by his father for his 15th birthday.
This April 3, 2020 photo provided by Thomas Kim, shows medical supplies before they were flown by teen pilot TJ Kim, who lives in McLean, Va., to Shenandoah Memorial Center the following day. (Thomas Kim via AP)
“After I landed, all I could think about was going back up,” he said.
Kim hopes to attend the Naval Academy and become a pilot.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.