Teen’s desire to help others takes flight
September 1, 2020
LEONARDTOWN, MARYLAND – TJ Kim, a 16-year-old aspiring pilot who has been delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to critical access hospitals in rural Virginia, expanded his efforts into Maryland this month. On Friday, Aug. 21, he landed at St. Mary's County Regional Airport to donate to MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.
"We are incredibly grateful to be included in TJ's mission," said Christine Wray, president of MedStar St. Mary's. "His desire to help communities such as ours during this crisis is heartwarming and we were excited to be able to greet him and offer our thanks on behalf of our hospital and our community."
The idea of Operation Supplies Over the Skies (SOS) took shape after many other activities TJ was involved in were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Already pursuing his private pilot's license, TJ decided to use his time in the air for a greater purpose—delivering much-needed supplies to hospitals in rural communities.
"It has always been a dream of mine to become a Navy pilot," said TJ who has received a lot of media attention for his efforts in the last few months. The publicity "has been crazy, something I never expected," he said.
TJ acquires supplies locally, but on several occasions, he has received donations to his project after local news agency reported on his project. The delivery to MedStar St. Mary's Hospital is the first time he has been able to include ventilator supplies, thanks to a donation made through TJ's flight instructor. He is not sure exactly how many supplies he has delivered so far but estimates it has surpassed 40,000 items.
TJ will be a junior at Landon School in Bethesda this fall and hopes to attend and play sports for the Naval Academy following graduation. During his visit to St. Mary’s, TJ was introduced to special guests Matt Scassero, director of the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site, which is located at the airport, and Rear Admiral Timothy Heely (USN-ret), former Commander of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River. Scassero and Heely are both Naval Academy graduates and members of the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance. TJ’s father, Thomas Kim, said his son was honored by the reception.
Like most teens, TJ admits his summer hasn't turned out as he planned but being able to continue to work toward achieving the flight hours needed for his pilot's license while delivering supplies to hospitals has given him purpose and others hope.
"I love being able to see the impact of what I am doing and being able to help out others," said TJ. "It has given me something to do and work toward. It has been very good to have something like that this summer."
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