A VILLAGE OF VOLUNTEERS
Founded in 1981 by pilot and business owner Leonard M. Greene, licensed commercial pilot Priscilla H. Blum, and business owner Jay N. Weinberg, Corporate Angel Network is the only charitable organization in the United States whose sole mission is to arrange free travel on corporate jets for patients with cancer going to and from treatment centers. At its headquarters in White Plains, New York, 6 employees and 50 part-time volunteers work with patients, physicians, corporate flight departments, and leading cancer centers to arrange more than 2500 patient flights per year. That breaks down to 225 to 250 patient flights each month.
To qualify for a ride with CAN, a passenger must be a cancer patient (or bone marrow donor or recipient) traveling for treatment, a consultation, or a check-up at a recognized treatment center registered with the National Cancer Institute or the American College of Surgeons. In addition, the patient should be able to walk up the steps of a corporate aircraft without assistance and not require oxygen, an IV, or onboard medical personnel. As passengers on a routine business flight, CAN passengers are advised to wear clothing appropriate for business travel. A patient may bring an adult companion if a second seat is available. Two adults can accompany a passenger younger than 21 years.
The Corporate Angel Network could not exist without their volunteers. These dedicated people interact with patients and their families; pilots, dispatchers, and secretaries; corporate flight schedulers; charter companies; doctors, nurses, and social workers; private car services; corporate communications departments; and members of the media. They enter flight schedules into the database and schedule flights; help arrange ground transportation; research and contact new partner corporations; help generate press coverage; and place pro bono advertisements.
CONNECTING WITH PASSENGERS
Patients hear about the Corporate Angel Network through word of mouth from other patients and families who flew on a CAN-arranged flight and from nurses, social workers, and other staff members at their treatment facilities.
The patients register with the Corporate Angel Network within 3 weeks of their appointment at a cancer treatment destination. Corporate Angel Network checks with the physician to confirm that the patient is well enough to fly. A week before the patient’s appointment a volunteer creates a flight request. Corporate schedules are available only a week in advance, so there is no point in looking for a flight before then. At that time the volunteer on the case begins looking for a corporate flight that matches the requested travel route. Patients are instructed to make arrangements on a commercial flight as a backup in case no corporate flights are available.
Because of the Corporate Angel Network, patients with cancer can consider treatment options beyond those offered at their local hospital, traveling to a facility hundreds or even thousands of miles away that offers more advanced therapy. They can also take advantage of participating in clinical trials conducted at medical centers in other parts of the country.
Additional benefits include avoiding the potential dangers of extended delays, long lines, crowded planes, and possibly sick passengers in commercial airports, an especially critical advantage for patients with immune deficiencies or chemotherapy-related restrictions who need to limit their exposure. Importantly, this life-giving service is offered free of charge, easing some of the financial stress for patients so they can focus on their recovery.
Bette Weinstein Kaplan is a medical writer based in Tenafly, New Jersey.