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Southwest Airlines and a Special Journey For John

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Southwest Airlines relies on a dedicated group of local Employees in every city we serve who evaluate and respond to each request for a charitable donation that comes from the community. These “Local Giving Boards” allow local Employees to decide how Southwest can be the hometown carrier when it comes to charitable giving in their communities.  Southwest Airlines focuses our resources primarily on five areas of charitable giving: the Military and it Families, Families Facing Serious Illness, Youth Leadership and Community Involvement, the Environment, and Disaster Preparedness and Response. To celebrate the season of giving, this week we’ll highlight some of our memorable stories from 2010 in each one of these categories.

You probably wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but John, a father of three and husband to Lynn, is battling cancer. Take the stresses of everyday life: getting the kids to school on time, paying the bills, keeping the family generally happy and healthy. Then, top that with cancer. Now you’re in John’s world.

It’s not hard to imagine that these circumstances could quickly feel overwhelming. All of a sudden, you’d be a fighter in a battle that you were never prepared for.  Unfortunately, John’s story is not uncommon. Hundreds of thousands of Americans battle a serious illness every day.  Southwest Airlines is committed to families facing serious illness. That’s why we provide complimentary travel to nonprofit organizations like For Pete’s Sake which aims to strengthen the hearts, minds, and souls of these courageous individuals as they battle the psychological, emotional, economic, and spiritual trauma that accompanies a cancer diagnosis.

For Pete’s Sake sent John and his family to Disney World in Orlando for an entire week. It was John and Lynn’s first flight since they had children and it was their children’s very first flight. Southwest was proud to have a small part in this special vacation. They spent their days laughing and playing.

“We did not have to WORRY about life, but instead, enjoy it!” John said.

It is stories like John’s that remind us that travel is not always just for times when you “wanna get away;” sometimes it is for times when you have to get away. Whether it is for necessary medical treatment or for a time of rejuvenation with your family, Southwest is here to share that journey with these courageous families.

For more information on For Pete’s Sake, visit To learn about Southwest Airline’s Medical Transportation Grant Program and its ongoing commitment to families facing serious illness, visit  And to see more of John’s Journey, please click here.

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I can tell you that For Pete's Sake provides families the memories of a lifetime. If it were not For Pete's Sake many families would be left with the only memories of cancer ruining their lives and taking a loved one away - instead families celebrate their loved ones with memories that will last forever. They will look at their logs, reflect on what it was to be a special family together and cherish those moments until they are reunited. And it is because of caring partners like Southwest that we are able to provide those long lasting memories. Please support those in need and Southwest please continue to assist For Pete's Sake in making cancer take a week's vacation from our most important loved one's lives. For Pete's Sake we ask you all to support us.
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Yes, thanks to companies such as Southwest, and organizations like "For Pete's Sake" (formally Crossing the Finish Line), I got a chance to get away and level set my life. Love, laugh and live (as a good friend has put it), and in the process, I have made so, so many new friends. I would like to once again thank Southwest and FPS for that opportunity and also thank everyone who has had a hand in helping me and my family deal with this horrible circumstance. We love you all, and we wish you the happiest and healthiest holiday season and New Year. Organizations like this depend on the generosity of people to continue to help, so if you can offer assistance in anyway, please do so, it made me feel better, and I know you will feel better too! God bless you all. John Pannone
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My family benefited from Crossing the Finish Line (CFL), now For Pete's Sake Cancer Respite Foundation (FPS), over six years ago and to see them now receiving help from from a company with true integrity such as Southwest is amazing. My mother had a relapse with cancer when I was 18 and to say our relationship was strained at that point in our lives would be an understatement. CFL/FPS entered our lives two years into my mom's treatment when, like the Pannone's, they sent my family to Orlando. By then, the treatment had shown it's effect on her and she had begun forgetting things such as my brother's and sister's names, to other simple things like her birthday. Being the stubborn kid I was at the time, I hadn't spoken to my mom beyond a courtesy "Hello" in over a year. I tried my hardest to get out of this opportunity that CFL, essential strangers, was trying to give my family. Luckily, I did not succeed. If it were not for that week away I would, to this day, be suffocated with guilt that few ever experience. Fortunately, for that one week we spent in Orlando, I got the mom I knew before cancer, back. It was the little things that came back (watching Seinfeld together every night, and her making fun of my dad for cleaning while on vacation) that made the trip memorable. For a week, we were the family we used to be again. 3 weeks later my dad had come home in the morning, after spending most of the night in the hospital, in tears telling my brother and I that she wouldn't be leaving the hospital, and that the doctors had told him to start gathering the family to say goodbye. That night I spent the night in the hospital laying in an uncomfortable chair next to my mom as the rest of the family had decided to go home and rest. I wrote, I sobbed, I apologized and slept for 20 minutes total until my family came back the next morning. My mom woke up for the last time that morning. That's when my dad told her that I had spent the whole night with her and never left. Had it not been for the gift CFL gave my family 3 weeks earlier, my mom's last words to me would have killed me and haunted me the rest of my life. After my dad told her I had stayed the whole night, she looked at me with that glare she used to get when she was trying her hardest not to crack a smile and plainly said, "I hate you." Had it not been our trip to Orlando, and those nights sitting on the couch in the CFL house quoting lines from Seinfeld before they were even spoken, I would have felt the same way most people reading this feel. But that week we were away, I realized my mom was still there, buried underneath the cancer, the chemo and the constant hospital visits. That's what helped me smile when she told me she hated me; because that's what she always said when she loved what you did for her and appreciated beyond what you could imagine but hated that you were nice to her or suffered on her behalf. To this day I know, she loved me, regardless of how we were to each other, because for one week I got my mom back. That's what these trips do, and I am but one kid amongst a million out there in a similar situation where a parent or loved one has cancer. So from the bottom of this cynic's heart, thank you FPS and Southwest for showing me and others like me that there is good out there; that there are things beyond cancer. Thank you.
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The positive effect that the family trips made possible by the organization For Pete's Sake and companies such as Southwest is astounding! During the respite, families can enjoy each other, and for a short time put aside the stresses of everyday life and the illness of their loved one. As a volunteer and Board member for several years, I am amazed to read the powerful stories written by persons with cancer and their family members. The strength everyone gains from the experience provides their ability to meet each day with a smile! Thank you Southwest Airlines for your support of For Pete's Sake!! We all appreciate our relationship with you. Happy Holidays to everyone! Debi Bacon
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What a great gift For Petes Sake provides individuals and families at a difficult time! Thank you FPS for enriching the lives of so many people. Keep up the great work! Congratulations to Southwest for partnering with worthy charities, you too are making a difference.
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Thank you, Southwest, for helping For Pete's Sake to be a saving grace to these families who are caught up in doctor's visits, medical bills and the chaos that comes with cancer treatment. As an event chairperson for FPS, I am fortunate to interact with the families who benefit from these trips as well as the volunteers who give of themselves to help. All of these people are heroes and Southwest is a hero among them. We cannot tell you how much we appreciate your willingness to be part of our program and help us to help cancer patients and their families.
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Hats off to Southwest for helping John - we all know cancer in some way - and it is great to see support for families suffering from this disease. Nothing beats the smiles on the faces of the entire Pannone family! As a Southwest customer (and a happy one too because the flying experience is always a good one) I am proud to know of Southwest endeavors that truly help those in need - I will think of his special journey next time I fly with you!
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As a people friendly airline Southwest leads the way with their committment to give back to the people it serves. For Pete's Sake and Southwest make great partners in providing the opportunity for the children to take a break and share quality time with their parents. The combination of these two great organizations adds to the experience, and puts the time away on another level. A recent patient has written " I was sitting in the living room of the For Pete's Sake home in Florida drifting away in my thoughts, reading a book when I heard my 2 young girls ages 6 and 4 having the time of their life in the pool. Along with the their laughter, they would break into giggles that took my breath away. I then thought about about this be able to enjoy a slice of life with my children. Thank you FPS." It's stories like this that remind us how special it is to be able to help others. Thank You Southwest for you help and support along the way.
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As my wife, Erin, was battling breast cancer, we were able to benefit from a trip from For Pete's Sake (formerly Crossing the Finish Line). During the trip, Erin wrote her thoughts in the journal at the home we stayed in outside of Orlando. She ended the entry with "Life isn't measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away. Thanks to For Pete's Sake for tons of breathless memories." Without a doubt, the experience provided memories of a lifetime for me and my children.