Ann McGee, 60
President, Miracle Flights for Kids, Henderson, Nev.
A DESPERATE CALL: After moving to Las Vegas in 1983, McGee, then a teacher, volunteered to arrange air transport of blood to hospitals. One night, her phone rang: A father had found a well-regarded specialist for his 7-year-old son, battling cancer, but couldn’t afford the trip to California. “He said, ‘Can you help me?'” McGee recalls. “I said, ‘Of course.'”
LIFE-SAVING FLIGHTS: And so began Miracle Flights for Kids (www.miracleflights.org), which has coordinated 50,000 commercial and private trips ferrying sick children and their parents to top specialists—a travel cost not covered by insurance. From her office near the Las Vegas airport, McGee and her 10-person staff scour cheap-ticket Web sites and solicit donated seats from airlines, relying on foundation grants and individual donations to fund their $3 million budget. “These kids wouldn’t get the help they need without these flights,” says Diane Wilde, surgery coordinator for a Denver, Colo., practice that treats rare respiratory illnesses. “Ann is a national hero.”
A FIGHTING CHANCE: McGee has flown an Ohio girl with facial deformities for surgery and follow-up care in Dallas more than 40 times. Then there are the Halbert twins—5-year-olds Taylor and Kirsten. Diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a disorder that causes recurrent tumors, they travel from their Las Vegas home every few months to see a doctor in Salt Lake City. “They said he was the best of the best,” says mom Jennifer Halbert, a nurse who stopped working to care for her girls; her police-sergeant husband, Chris, works over-time to pay for uncovered medical costs. Of McGee, she says, “It’s amazing one person can make such a difference.”
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