HAGERSTOWN, Md. (NewsNation Now) — TJ Kim’s unique volunteer efforts are helping rural hospitals receive personal protection equipment. The 16-year-old got his pilot’s license nearly two years ago, and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Kim’s first thought was to help others.
“I wanted to find a way to keep flying so I came up with operation S.O.S. to continue flying and also help hospitals in need,” Kim said.
Kim launched operation S.O.S., or Supplies Over Skies, to deliver personal protection equipment to rural hospitals, an honorable way to use his mandatory training hours.
On Sept. 19, Kim flew from Leesburg, Va. to Hagerstown Regional Airport where he donated about 4,000 pieces of much-needed medical supplies to Meritus Medical Center.
Kim wanted to expand his flights to include Maryland after meeting with Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan at a Korean War Veterans memorial event, according to NewsNation affiliate WDVM.
President and CEO of Meritus Health, Maulik Joshi, stated that he and his staff are so grateful for the donation, calling Kim an incredibly wonderful human being. Joshi went on to explain that almost every organization in the United States has been affected by a PPE shortage.
“I think it means a lot and it shows that COVID is not just your own county or your own region but it really is a country-wide problem and having someone who thinks about all of us, it’s so thankful. We are so thankful, Joshi said. “This is not just nice to have, this is absolutely necessary to have. We’re grateful because we will use this immediately.”
Kim dreams of attending the United States Naval Academy to become a Navy pilot when he finishes high school.
“I started flying because ever since I was really little, my dream was to go to the Naval Academy and become a Navy pilot and when I had the opportunity to start flying even though this is nowhere near a Navy jet, I love, I fell in love with the opportunity, and I took it,” he said.
Kim believes that community service is essential especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe that you should help out in the community any way that you can,” he advised. “You don’t have to have a pilot’s license, but just finding ways to continue to help in the community cause everybody is having a hard time right now.”
Kim and his instructor, David Powell, plan on making more PPE donation flights in the near future and will continue to train until Kim’s Pilot’s License test in March.
NewsNation affiliate WDVM contributed to this report.