Angel Flight West’s volunteer pilots are transforming
Flights of Joy, AFW’s Adopt a Family program, started in 2020 during the COVID pandemic. Knowing that many families battling illnesses were also experiencing financial hardships, Angel Flight West’s staff and volunteers wanted to bring more joy to the holidays for our passengers.
Over the past two years, more than 50 volunteers have brightened the holiday season for 25 families across our region. Recipients meet our volunteers at their local airports, where children receive their colorfully wrapped gifts and have the chance to meet the pilots who made it all possible. And this year, 60 AFW pilots have signed up to help families in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
Zyauna’s family is one of the 18 families receiving gifts from generous volunteers this year. An AFW passenger since 2021, eleven-year-old Zyauna has flown with volunteer pilots 15 times to access her treatment at UCSF Banioff Children’s Hospital.
Zyauna was born with her heart on the right side of her body. After suffering three strokes and being diagnosed with heart failure, she had a heart transplant in 2018. “Because of her heart condition and transplant, Zyauna needs frequent checkups,” says her mom Jesse. “Having Angel Flight West at our disposal has been absolutely amazing.”
And our pilots have gotten to know how to make children feel right at home during each flight. “They’ve been so gracious, providing water bottles, blankets, and even teddy bears,” says Jesse. Our pilots give the gift of flight year-round, donating their time, talent and resources, with 3,000 missions flown this year. And now, they’re making the holidays special.
“It’s above and beyond how much we’ve received from Angel Flight West… and now this for Christmas?” says Jesse. “My children will be extremely thankful, and I am extremely thankful.”