TJ Kim is a 16-year-old lacrosse player and sophomore student at Landon School in Bethesda, Md. Although he’s not old enough to drive a car by himself, he’s using his pilot lessons as an opportunity to help others by flying medical supplies to small, rural hospitals in need during the coronavirus pandemic.
“They kind of conveyed to me that they were really forgotten about. Everyone was wanting to send donations to big city hospitals,” Kim told the Associated Press. “Every hospital is hurting for supplies, but it’s the rural hospitals that really feel forgotten.”
With his high school closed down to flatten the curve, Kim’s lacrosse season was cancelled early. The disappointed athlete then began brainstorming with his family, who lives in McLean, Va., about how he could stay active and help the community in his downtime.
“I just turned 16 a couple of weeks ago and everything was taken from me. Lacrosse season ended, the school season was effectively over,” Kim said.
Together, Kim and his family thought up “Operation SOS,” or, “Operation Supplies Over Skies.”
During a recent mission, the teen flew 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 a hospital in Woodstock, Va., according to AP.
Kim says his goal is to deliver supplies to all seven of the rural hospitals in Virginia, with each flight longer and farther away. He admitted that flying is the easy part of this mission — which is no surprise for the teen, who hopes to be a pilot someday — while adding that finding the supplies has proven a lot harder.
Kim’s father, Thomas Kim, says he’s proud that his son was able to turn his frustration into an opportunity to help others.
“Something that combines serving the community and his love of flying,” the father said. “The stars really aligned here.”
Watch TJ Kim discuss his charitable operation in the video above.
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