Teen Pilot Flies Medical Supplies to Hospitals in Rural Areas to Help Them in Coronavirus Fight

TJ Kim is flying gloves, mask and gowns to hospitals in need of supplies

A high school sophomore is flying medical supplies to healthcare workers in rural Virginia who need help amid the coronavirus epidemic.

Since the school year ended early, 16-year-old TJ Kim has been using his newfound free time to lend a helping hand to those in most need of it. Though he doesn’t even have a driver’s license, Kim has been flying gloves, masks, gowns and other equipment to small hospitals in rural Virginia, in an effort he calls Operation SOS — Supplies Over Skies, according to the Associated Press.

“They kind of conveyed to me that they were really forgotten about. Everyone was wanting to send donations to big city hospitals,” he told the AP. “Every hospital is hurting for supplies, but it’s the rural hospitals that really feel forgotten.”

Kim — from McLean — made his first delivery on March 27 to a small, 25-bed hospital in Luray, located about 85 miles away.

The most recent shipment saw him fly “3,000 gloves, 1,000 headcovers, 500 shoe covers, 50 non-surgical masks, 20 pairs of protective eyewear and 10 concentrated bottles of hand sanitizer” to a hospital in Woodstock, the outlet reported.

“For TJ to be more concerned with the needs of others in his melancholy state just reiterated to me how amazing this young man is,” Kim’s flight instructor, Dave Powell, told the AP.

Kim plans to fly to all seven rural hospitals that are labeled “critical access” in Virginia. As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been 3,333 cases and 66 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the state, according to the New York Times.

Kim’s selfless act began after he searched for a productive way to use his time after the school year and his lacrosse season came to an early end. Now that he has a year of experience under his belt — he originally fell in love with flying when his father bought him a lesson for his 15th birthday — it didn’t take long for him to come up with the idea.

“The stars really aligned here,” his father, Thomas Kim, told the AP.

There are now at least 395,090 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, the most worldwide, the Times reported.

At least 12,786 people in the U.S. have died from coronavirus-related illness.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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