Corporate Angels help cancer patients fly free

Fighting cancer is miserable, especially when you’re just 5 years old. There are needles, spinal taps and pain. For Emily Brune, just getting from her Atlanta home for a checkup at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital is an ordeal since, according to her mother, Sou Brune, “Being in close quarters is potentially hazardous to her health.”

But not any more, thanks to the Corporate Angels Network, which arranges free flights on corporate jets for cancer patients like Emily.

Emily thinks the planes are pretty fun to fly on. “They have these peanuts, and there’s other stuff,” Emily says.

Now unemployed, Brook Welborn also needs Corporate Angels because she can’t afford to fly 1,000 miles for treatment of tongue cancer. “It’s a relief to have that, to have that flight," she says.

Every month the non-profit Corporate Angels Network, based in White Plains, N.Y., arranges almost 200 flights for cancer patients flying to other cities for treatment. Sixty volunteers scramble to find unused seats on corporate jets. According to Bonnie Lavar, the organization's director, “We are incredibly stressed because we are trying so hard to get a flight, and it’s a matter of luck to make a match.”

In an era of corporate excess — even criminal wrongdoing — the 500 companies that belong to the network don’t get a dime for donating the space on their planes.

“We have an empty seat; they have a need,” says Brent Lively of Duke Energy. “We’re going anyway.”

But for those who help fly patients there is special compensation. “The smile that comes on that child’s face, that’s priceless," says pilot Scott Franz.

Emily is doing better now — and not just because of her doctors. “It just makes the day so much easier to know that this is what’s waiting for us at the end of a difficult day,” says her mother.

For Welborn, too, it’s been a bona fide strike. According to her husband Michael, “I truly believe it saved her life.”

Brook agrees, “I’m gonna lick this.” And she’s doing it with an earthly assist from some angels.