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Going The Extra Mile to Save Lives: Medical Transportation Grant Program Returns

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Imagine a child has a tumor that requires travel across the country each year for treatment. The parents declared bankruptcy, lost their home, and their car. How do they afford travel?

For a woman from Lexington, KY, air time is more than just a flight to St. Louis where she can receive treatment at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Air time is a second chance at life, despite multiple lung transplants.

Two children traveling to be fitted for leg braces find hope and relief from Denver Employees willing to go above and beyond to make their trips as comfortable as possible. 

Dear World

LUV Making A Difference.  Southwest Employee Debra Benjamin shows how Southwest is dedicated to making a positive difference in the communities we serve.

These examples are a mere glimpse into the thousands of lives who have received complimentary transportation through Southwest Airline’s Medical Transportation Grant Program.  Today, Southwest is accepting applications from hospitals and medical transportation charities to participate in the 2013 program.  To join the more than six dozen organizations nationwide, nonprofits can apply online by visiting now through Sept. 30.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share more heartwarming stories where we’ve had the privilege of making a positive difference. The photos you’re looking at are some emotional and impactful photographs taken by photographer Robert X. Fogarty and Dear World that help convey the message of hope, the importance of the Medical Transportation Grant Program for patients and caregivers, and Southwest’s commitment to making a difference. 

Dear World

A Reason to Hope. No Limits.  Emily Merlau, a patient from Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, proclaims no limits, surrounded by her supportive family.

Over the past five years, we’ve been humbled to lessen the burden of travel expenses for nearly 20,000 families who are facing serious illness through this unique program by donating roundtrip tickets to nonprofit hospitals and medical organizations.  In 2012, Southwest provided more than $2.4 million in free transportation to more than 70 hospitals and organizations nationwide.

Dear World

Travel for Treatment. Debbie Wafford, who manages the Medical Transportation Grant Program at Southwest, links arms with Michelle Merlau, Assistant to the Controller at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, who helps distribute tickets to patients.

We hope that the caring attention of our Employees and the travel assistance helps ease the difficulties for these patients and families who are already going through so much.  The opportunity to use our airplane seats for good and our Employees’ Servant’s Hearts are just another reason why I LUV working for a Company that cares so much for the people who live in the communities we have the privilege of serving.

Dear World

Encourage Others. Texas Scottish Rite Hospital patient and Southwest Employee Kati Garrett share the way they make a difference.

1 Comment
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A friend of mine posted a link to this article on my FB page, because he is aware of a charity I started in June called, aptly, The Extra Mile. My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in November 2011, and the way the tumor had developed, it was unremoveable. I had just moved to Los Angeles with my wife in August, and not knowing how long he had left, I began scheduling flights back to see him in Michigan (usually on SW). At least once a month I would fly back, rent a car and spend 3-4 maybe 5 days soaking up and reminiscing about good times with him, and creating some new ones. During this extremely stressful span, I spent a lot of time on your airplanes, and when I wasn’t crying about the idea of not having having a dad, I thought about those people in similar situations who couldn’t afford to do what I was doing. I couldn’t imagine not being able to see him, especially knowing that at any time I could get a call saying he was gone. So after posting a question on FB to see if anyone had heard of a charity that's purpose was to get donated FF miles (and cash donations) to allow those less fortunate visit their terminally ill family members and loved ones coming back with 100 comments in support of it, I did just that. I created The Extra Mile in my late father's honor, and I am going to help people. We are awaiting response on our 501 (C)3, but have a website ( a FB page ( and a twitter account (@thextramile). To me, your airline is the absolute perfect for this, so much so that the logo even has some crossover. Anything that I can do to partner or get involved with SWA, I would be absolutely honored. The chance, to be on your list of partners for 2013 would mean more to me than I can describe. I will look into the grant link above as well to try and make it in there too. Thank you for your consideration. Matt Dimmer Founder, The Extra Mile