Above and Beyond

Angel Flight Northeast, funded by the Catholic Health Foundation, bridges the gap between the impossible and the possible by providing free medical transportation to patients of all ages who need to access vital medical care.

For most people, flying the friendly skies is an exciting adventure. Climbing aboard a plane, peering out the small window, even making a gate connection can all be part of an exciting journey. But when one is critically ill or hurt, what may be exciting to most of us can be painful and even risky. Fortunately, there is an Angel in the air that uses its “wings” to lift not just people’s spirits- but people themselves.

Angel Flight Northeast, funded by the Catholic Health Foundation, bridges the gap between the impossible and the possible by providing free medical transportation to patients of all ages who need to access vital medical care. Through its affiliations with a network of over 450 volunteer pilots and commercial airline partners, such as JetBlue and Cape Air, they arrange for transportation for patients needing free medical flights.

For many patients who suffer from rare diseases, critical conditions, or severe burns, quick and easy air travel is vital. Oftentimes, however, a lack of financial resources creates a real barrier to accessing the ongoing and lifesaving medical care that they need to survive. “They are often desperate for help,” says Larry Camerlin, Founder and President of Angel Flight NE. (Larry is also an avid pilot and priest). “By eliminating the cost of airfare, patients can participate in clinical trials that may not have otherwise been an option. They’re searching for hope and help. This is our way and our time to help them.”

Based out of Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Andover, a small but dedicated staff work their miracle ministry. They schedule flights and make the necessary arrangements to ensure patients (and their families) fly with the care and accommodations that they need. They also connect with “Earth Angels” – ground volunteers who collect patients at the airport and drive them to the hospital or to their medical specialist appointment. They provide a friendly face and easy conversation in what is otherwise an unfamiliar city during an uncomfortable and frightening time.

“Every time the phone rings, it’s a different story on the other end of the line,” says Larry. “Our mission is what sets us apart. We don’t just move people from one city to another. We provide care for patients and their families every step of the way. We lift them up both literally and figuratively.”

Another beneficial side effect to Angel Flights lands on the pilots. “Pilots who have flown all their lives state that it is the Angel Flights that make them feel as if they’re having an impact on the world,” says Larry. “For some of them, it’s the first time they have experienced God’s presence in their lives. They’ve never really discerned their own gifts and how they can use their gifts and skills to make a difference in another’s life. As members of the corporate world, they’ve flown hundreds and hundreds of hours. But it is through Angle Flight that they become in touch with the spiritual world.”

Making connections through care and conversation helps the patients as much as the actual flights. One young boy named Logan became Larry’s most memorable passenger. He flew the child on more than 70 of his 100+ flights for treatment over several years and they became quite close. Eventually, treatment stopped working for Logan. Knowing his end was near, he called and asked Larry to come and visit him at his home in Maine.

“He had deep questions, hard questions,” recalls Larry. “He asked me why God hated him. ‘I’m just 11 years old and I’m dying. Why does God hate me?’ He had heavy questions, but it was a gift to be able to visit with him -this time in my capacity as a priest- and give him some peace before he made his final journey.”

For Angel Flight passengers, “living life on the fly” is more than just an expression; it’s a way to move forward with hope.

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