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Give A Mile donations get flights to see loved ones for the last time

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(NEW YORK) — When Ileen Paden’s husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and began showing signs of dementia, she knew she couldn’t give him the care he needed at home. After 36 years of marriage, Paden stayed in Indiana while Charles went to a nursing home in Dallas, Texas, aided by funding from the Veterans Administration.

“It was very hard to let him go,” Paden said of her husband, Charles. “But I knew I wasn’t doing him any good keeping him here.”

Over Charles’ three years in Texas, Paden visited as often as possible, but she didn’t have much money and was receiving disability benefits herself. As her husband’s condition began to deteriorate, she worried she might not get to see him again.

Then on TikTok, a hospice nurse she followed mentioned the organization Give A Mile, which used donated frequent flyer miles to help arrange flights for people separated from their loved ones. Paden applied immediately. Give A Mile responded within an hour, and in December, Paden, her daughter and her granddaughter flew to Dallas to be with her husband for the last time, she told ABC News.

During the December visit, Paden stayed overnight at Charles’ facility and they talked late into the night. Her granddaughter, who hadn’t seen him since she was a toddler, crawled up onto his bed and gave him a hug. They spent most of their three-day visit at the nursing home, helping out and spending time with him.

“That brought a lot of joy,” said Paden. “I can’t believe they actually had this kind of program because it was perfect. That’s what we needed: to see him one last time.”

Give A Mile also enabled Andrea Bryant to see her mother one last time. During an international trip, Bryant’s mother suffered a pulmonary embolism, leading to her being placed on life support in Istanbul. After lengthy and expensive dealings with the hospital in Turkey through an interpreter, Bryant and her sister arranged an international medical flight to bring her mother home. Her mother’s coworkers at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, where she worked as a nurse, got the hospital to accept her as a patient.

Bryant was following in mother’s footsteps and going to nursing school, and she had children and grandchildren to support. Through the ordeal, she spent tens of thousands of dollars from her savings to transport her mother back to the United States. She had no idea how she would afford the trip from her home in Houston to see her mother in Seattle for the last time.

One of the instructors at her school told her about Give A Mile. After she applied, Give A Mile quickly approved her application and sent her a flight within 12 hours.

“These people gave me the opportunity to see my mother for the very last time and hold her hand again and be with my sisters at the hospital by her side,” said Bryant. “If it would not have been for them, I don’t know that I would have seen my mom again.”

Give A Mile has made a difference for countless families like Paden’s and Bryant’s. Founded in 2013 by Canadian tech executive Kevin Crowe, Give A Mile is a non-profit organization with the mission of helping people get flights to travel and see their loved ones for the last time before they pass away. To arrange flights, Give A Mile asks for donations of frequent flyer miles or cash.

Crowe formed Give A Mile as a tribute to his friend Ryan, who died from brain cancer at the age of 37. Crowe cared for Ryan in his final months alongside his family, and he witnessed firsthand the value they found in spending time together before he died.

“It’s great to go to Super Bowls and it’s great to go on trips and hit up Vegas,” said Crowe. “But these are the moments of life that are really the prize, the little moments with our children, the people we love, our friends and family.”

After Ryan’s death, Crowe learned that trillions of frequent flyer miles go unused every year and came up with the concept for Give A Mile.

Since then, the organization has provided over 1,000 flights with over 36 million miles donated.

The process of applying for a flight through Give A Mile is simple. The application is short and asks for financial information, personal details and medical verification. From there, a flight review team looks at the application and moves as quickly as possible to approve it and arrange flights.

“We can’t help everybody,” said Crowe. “As applications come in, we assess them based on the resources we have at that moment. … If you meet the criteria, we’re going to do all our best to make that flight happen for you.”

To donate, people can pledge miles for long or short haul flights through major airlines and rewards programs. Give A Mile partners with United and Air Canada, which hold campaigns for the organization throughout the year, where people can donate any amount above 1,000 miles. The organization also accepts cash, which helps with flights to remote areas or when flights can’t be booked with miles.

For Crowe, the founder, a thousand flights and 36 million miles are just the start. He wants to reach a billion miles donated.

And some of the donors who will help him build toward that goal are people the organization has previously helped. After Paden’s husband passed away in Texas, her family decided to pay it forward. In lieu of flowers, they asked for donations to Give A Mile.

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