Friday, May 23, 2014

2,000 and counting: Pilots for Patients reaches milestone


Mindy Jones of West Monroe waved and blew kisses to family and friends from inside the small single-engine plane parked outside the Pilots for Patients’ hangar Friday morning before taking off for her latest round of cancer treatment. 

 Several local and state officials and Pilots for Patients supporters saw her off after celebrating a major milestone for the organization.

Her flight marked the 2,000th for Pilots for Patients — a Louisiana-based, nonprofit organization that provides free air transportation for qualified patients and requesting agencies.

Before assistance from Pilots for Patients, Jones often drove more than six hours to Houston for treatment. Now she can make a trip in under two hours.

“This has made a huge difference in our lives. Even more than the financial savings, it means more to me that I can make quicker trips back and forth and be home with my family more.

She has Stage IV melanoma and has received 11 treatments since October. She travels every week to MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“Now I can kiss my children goodbye and tell them I’ll see them tomorrow at lunch. When I get home I am more rested and I can just be a mom and not the cancer patient who is tired and not feeling well. This has really allowed us normalcy as a family. They have been such a huge blessing,” Jones said. “They are so kind and so selfless. The pilot — Jimmy McDonald — also flew me last month on his birthday. They are just an amazing group of people. I’ve found a whole other family here.”

To commemorate the milestone and give back to the organization Jones, her family and friends raised $2,000 and presented a check to Pilots for Patients before Friday’s trip.

Pilots for Patients president Philip Thomas said the organization wants to branch out more throughout the state to offer services to neighboring cities.

The group started flying missions in January 2008 in Monroe and now flies missions from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Shreveport and Lake Charles.

“We are going to try to encompass more of the outlying areas and do more missions to much of those smaller airports. My dream is to incorporate at least 10 pilots at each of these smaller airports. That would leave us with 690 pilots who could be heroes in their own community,” Thomas said.

Story, video and photo:

Mindy Jones of West Monroe takes one more look at her family and friends before boarding the Pilots for Patients airplane that will fly her to Houston for cancer treatment. Jones' journey on Friday marked the 2,000th flight for the organization.

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