Las Vegas-based Miracle Flights was founded in 1985 on the simple, straightforward belief that a healthy life is the birthright of every child—regardless of income, ailment or distance to medical care. What started as a small operation flying local children from southern Nevada has since grown into a national effort that connects critically ill children from all corners of the country to the medical experts who can best treat them.
Today, Miracle Flights is the nation’s leading medical flight charity and the only national charity headquartered in southern Nevada. Over the last 35 years, they’ve provided more than 130,000 free flights to sick kids and their families. For many, that plane ticket represents more than a flight; it represents hope.
According to Miracle Flights CEO Mark E. Brown, a plane ticket is often the missing piece parents need to get their child the valuable medical treatment he or she requires.
“When parents come to Miracle Flights, they know where their child needs to go, but the problem is they can’t afford to get to the treatment facility. Their insurance may only cover the cost of the medical care itself,” Mark says. “That’s where Miracle Flights comes in. We provide commercial flights at no cost to families anywhere in the United States they need to go for proper medical treatment and as many times as necessary.”
The organization books an average of 600 flights every month, Mark says, citing 10-year-old Rosa from San Diego as an example of who Miracle Flights assists. Rosa flies nearly 3,000 miles from home every six months with her mother for treatment of a rare joint condition called arthrogryposis. Rosa recently received her 20th Miracle Flight to care, with more flights expected in the new year.
“Flights like Rosa’s are only possible thanks to the continued support of individual and community partners who so generously lend their resources to help further Miracle Flights’ mission,” Mark says.
Those partners include local businesses and individuals as well as national brands like Chick-Fil-A, Southwest Airlines, UFC and Lovepop.
Whether they’re local or national, Mark says donors and partners are at the root of the organization’s success.
“They give hope to our families and futures to our children.”
As Miracle Flights continues to build its profile nationally, Mark says his team has redoubled its efforts in support of the Las Vegas community.
“This organization was born, raised and nurtured right here in Las Vegas,” he says. “We’re proud of how we’ve grown with this city, and we want to make sure that we contribute to the community that has supported us so steadfastly.”
To that end, the organization hosts a number of education and outreach events every year. In 2017, Miracle Flights made arrangements to provide free medical flights for injured victims in the Route 91 shooting. They recently introduced a mascot, Miles, to help build awareness and promote inclusivity with younger audiences. And last year, the organization launched its biggest public outreach event to date, Carnival in the Clouds.
The spring 2018 event, which drew thousands to Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas, celebrated aviation history and drone development in southern Nevada.
“Airshows were at the heart of our early fundraising efforts, so it seemed appropriate to pay homage to those origins,” Mark says. “It’s also an exciting way to bring the community together and tell them about the need for our services.”
Mark says the demand for Miracle Flights increases every year.
“More than 7,000 rare diseases affect 15 million children here in the U.S. alone,” he says. “And access to specialized care remains limited to just a few centers in the country.”
He adds that, as donor support allows, the organization will explore ways to expand its service model to help more people in need with the cost of travel. Veterans and adults in need of distant specialty care, for example.
As the organization evolves, Mark says community involvement will be more important than ever. If you’re interested in helping provide “The Cure for Distance” as a volunteer, partner or sponsor, please visit MiracleFlights.org.
Miracle Flights in Action
Sutton was born with a respiratory condition that affects just one in 10,000 people. After dipping into their 401(k) to cover medical costs, Sutton’s family found Miracle Flights, and they flew from Texas to Boston for specialty surgery—free from the burden of travel costs. Sutton has improved dramatically, and his parents are confident that the family’s very first Miracle Flight led to a life-changing solution.
Steven and his family have been on several Miracle Flights between their home in South Carolina and Boston, where a team of specialty caregivers has helped treat Steven’s severe gastrointestinal issues. Through it all, the spirited 6-year-old still lights up the room with his steadfast smile.
Amanda, a bright, playful 11-year-old, is determined to win her battle with an exceptionally rare epilepsy disorder, one that only 32 people in the world are known to have. With help from Miracle Flights, Amanda makes frequent trips to Palo Alto, California, for specialized care. She has improved to the point that, after a four-year absence, she’s gone back to school!
Madalyn, who loves science and wants to be a singer when she grows up, flies from Nevada to Aurora, Colorado, where specialists help treat her spinal muscular atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy.