BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – TJ Kim is not like many 16 year olds, in fact, he’s not like many people.
On Sunday, the Virginia native flew an hour and a half from Leesburg, Va. to the North Central West Virginia Airport with 14 boxes containing about 5,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE). The delivery was for Mon Health Preston Memorial Hospital whose chief administrative officer (CAO), Melissa Lockwood, met Kim on the runway.
“I was very happy,” Lockwood said. “I know TJ brought some supplies to Grafton a few weeks back and so we’re very thrilled to have the supplies that he’s bringing and it’s exciting. I just think the efforts that he’s making as a young person is amazing, recognizing the need for rural hospitals.”
As Lockwood alluded to, this was not Kim’s first time making a PPE delivery. He has been delivering supplies to small and rural hospitals since pandemic restrictions limited most activities he enjoyed in March.
His father bought him flight lessons for his 15th birthday because it was always his dream to be a pilot in the Navy. With the pandemic bearing down on everyday life, Kim looked to the skies and within to come up with Supplies Over Skies, also known as Operation SOS.
“Flight training was one of the few things I have left to do and I still wanted to find a way to go out and serve in the community and there’s a lot of small hospitals hurting,” Kim said. “After I made my first delivery, I saw how much in need people were and so that’s what has motivated me to keep going.”
Kim’s motivation to help is not insignificant.
Lockwood said his delivery comes as the community Preston Memorial is seeing increased rates of COVID-19 and in need of PPE.
“We’re just now getting the hit from the coronavirus where — in some of the larger areas that was several months back, so it’s a right time for us,” the CAO said.
Lockwood said Kim’s delivery will be critical and significant for the hospital.
“Absolutely essential, just to make sure that we keep those supplies up to continue to be able to treat patients in our community,” she said.
Knowing that he is helping makes Kim more inspired to keep making a difference. In fact, ow that Operation SOS is garnering attention, he can help more.
The young pilot said he is increasingly sourcing more of his supplies locally, within his community, as more people become aware of his cause. Now that his support is increasing, Kim doesn’t plan on stopping because he knows how in need and appreciative hospitals are for his service.
“That means everything,” Kim said. “The gratitude is really what motivates me to do everything and just being able to help out in any way that I can.”
Doing what he can has inspired many people. Lockwood even brought her granddaughter to see the delivery.
“I just want to thank him and wish him all the best in his endeavors,” Lockwood said. “He’s going to be a successful person. I can tell that he’s very driven.”