#320: GiveAMile - Funding Free Flights for Final Goodbyes
Our guest today is the founder of a unique concept called *Give A Mile*, a charity dedicated to providing free flights when it matters the most – for people who need to fly to be with a loved one at the very end of their life.
GiveAMile.org believes that the costs of a plane ticket should never be the reason someone dies alone.
He also explains how individuals can donate our loyalty miles or cash at any time to support these flights, which are often the only option for people to see their loved ones before they pass.
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Hello and welcome to episode 320 of Let’s Talk Loyalty Today. It’s a different style of episode, but one I think is perfect for the end of year as we enjoy the fest of season and begin to think ahead to 2023. Our guest today is Kevin Crowe, the founder of a unique concept called Give a Mile. It’s a charity dedicated to providing free flights when it matters the most. For people who need to fly to be with a loved one at the very end of their life. Giveamile.org believes that the cost of a plane ticket should never be the reason that someone dies alone. In today’s discussion, Kevin shares how loyalty program owners, like all of you listening, can partner with giveamile.org to help your members donate to this charity. He also explains how each of us as individuals can donate our loyalty miles or cash at any time to support these flights, which are often the only option for people to see their loved ones before they pass. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Kevin Crowe from giveamile.org.
Paula: So Kevin Crowe, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty.
Kevin: Thanks so much for having me, excited to be here!
Paula: Oh goodness. I can hear it, that’s super exciting for me. We, we are recording in, in December and releasing in December as well, so full of the, the festivities of the season. So, feels like an important time to be talking about exactly the work that you’re doing, Kevin. So, um, very pleased to be able to support the, the Give a Mile concept. It’s very very meaningful. Um, so before we get into talking about exactly what you’ve built and why, we always start this show, as you know, talking about our favorite loyalty programs. So why don’t you kick us off by telling us what are your favorite loyalty programs?
Kevin: Well, Paula, I’m gonna pick two and I’m gonna tell you, and it’s gonna become obvious as we talk why these two. But Air Canada and United have been huge, huge supporters and partners in the mission of Give a Mile. Uh, and just got behind us and allowed us to give these flights and, and what Give a Mile does is we have people donate their travel loyalty miles, and we give flights to people to see their loved one at end of life, right? So, you give a thousand points and I give a thousand points. And mothers, brothers, fathers, sister, sons, daughters can get on that plane to see that loved one. Who’s in the last maybe days, weeks of life, and it’s been a, a powerful experience. And without those two loyalty programs, yeah, we would not be where we are today.
Paula: Wow. Well, I mean, full credit to them. Air Canada’s been on the show, as I said to you before we started, Kevin, so, um, incredibly impressive in terms of what they’re doing with Aeroplan and clearly United is a huge support of yours as well, so, big kudos to them. Um, they have a lot of, I suppose, opportunities to support so many different good charities. So the fact that they’re getting behind Give a Mile means it’s, uh, it’s working for them at some level, like emotional level for their members I guess. So yeah, it’s, um, it’s incredible to hear what they’re doing for you.
Kevin: Well, I, I, I feel it’s just such a, a, a win-win-win. Right? Like if you think about, obviously the family’s receiving the flights. If you’re in a situation where, you know, you literally do not think you’re gonna see your loved one ever again. You cannot afford a flight. You get connected to Give a Mile and you’re, you receive a flight, 180 degree and you, your emotion and stress and obviously that, that power of the gift. So incredible win for the family. A win for the brands that are involved, right, to show obviously their commitment to community, to be able to put good in the system, even amongst their employees, right. To see, like, look at what we’re doing, like think of the impact we’re having on these people’s lives. And then I think a win for the people that are part of those loyalty programs, right? To think about the power you can have with your miles or your points, right? The fact that yeah, I love to collect them and go on these powerful vacations, but I also can pay that forward and give. What in some ways I think is the most powerful gift you can give is time with a loved one. Um, and so all of us together, I think it’s just one of those beautiful alignments of the stars. We all win together. It’s just so, so amazing.
Paula: And you’re absolutely right, Kevin. The reason I fell in love with the loyalty industry was exactly that. It was just like, oh, I get to be nice to people. I get to look after them, and then they, they like that too. And then they’re nice back to me and they buy more stuff. I mean, it’s amazing.
Kevin: Yes, right. It’s a beautiful model. Absolutely beautiful model.
Paula: Yeah, yeah. And I’ve seen some of your stats on the, on the website, Kevin. So, 877 flights given to people.
Kevin: And Paula, I gotta update that. It’s actually 920 as of this morning.
Paula: Oh my God.
Kevin: We always do a big, we always do a big Christmas campaign and, and we’re trying to get 50 flights out from now and, and to the, you know, Christmas. I mean, we might go a little bit in, into January. And we have had an incredible response. So, we are 920 and counting. And obviously, you know, there’s such demand right now with you know, inflation and the pressure on people’s wallets. And, and we’re just seeing a, a huge amount of, of flight applicants this year. So, we’re really hoping to be able to meet that demand.
Paula: For sure Kevin. So, I mean, I guess the obvious, uh, question is, is why did you start this? You know, it’s, it’s quite a challenge, I would say, from a lot of perspectives because first of all, there are a lot of charity initiatives out there. There’s a lot of technical challenge building something like this. Um, so yeah. It’s clearly very meaningful to you. So tell us, how did the idea come about?
Kevin: Yeah, and this is a passion project. I, I, I work in tech and, and this is really around, uh, an amazing friend, uh, Ryan. And, um, you know how like, to me, the universe is kind of a magical spot and, uh, yeah, things just happen. Um, I was meant to meet Ryan. I was destined to meet Ryan. I, you know, I, I dated this girl in university whose, uh, you know, boyfriend that she had broken up with from high school was this gentleman by the name of Ryan. I heard lots about him, but I never met him, never met him. My, my friend was hitching across Canada. I live in Canada. Uh, he, and this is years later after university, he got dropped off at my house and he said, oh, I got this amazing ride with this gentleman by the name of Ryan. You guys would be best friends, you gotta meet him, never met him. He flash forward years after that. I, I worked for this tech company. I, I’ve been here over 20 years and, and right near the beginning and we were growing and we, we got to about 50 people and we had to hire our first HR manager. And it was right around this time of year, right around Christmas. And I, and I went and introduced myself and, um, you know, I said, oh, what are you doing for Christmas? And she said she was going home for Christmas. And I said, oh, where are you from? And she mentioned the town. And I said, I knew some people. And she said, like, who? And I mentioned this, this woman I used to date, and her eyes got really big. And she’s like, my husband’s Ryan Westerman. So not only, not only, you know, was Ryan’s wife working for us, but he ended up living just down the road from me. So of course I said, hey, I gotta meet your husband. This is a story. We became instant, incredible friends. Um, we were both kind of in the same stage of our, our, our lives at that time. Recently married, we both had young sons. Our careers were doing really well. And, and so, you know, just sharing life together, right? Like, you know, our, our, we’d put our kids to sleep and then we’d like sneak outta the house and play video games together or, you know, have backyard fires and just, you know, share experiences in life. So incredible bond. And unfortunately, you know, where our story’s pivoted is Ryan ends up getting diagnosed with, you know, brain cancer that’s extremely aggressive, extremely aggressive. And, and I remember, you know, he had a major seizure and, and I went to visit him in the emergency room at, at the hospital.
And we just had this incredible conversation. Um, and I, I can’t. It’s beyond words, right? That, you know, he was looking for someone, he is like, Kev, I need someone to help me get through this journey. Um, we kind of knew how it was gonna end. Um, and he’s like, I got my family, I got this incredible support, I got my friends, but I need someone I can confide in and, and just, you know, really share all my emotions with and, and will you be that person? And it literally, you know, scared the hell outta me.
Paula: Of course.
Kevin: Big ask, right? And um, and I said, you know, absolutely. I, I want to do that. I want to do that for you. And so we had this incredible kind of last year of life together. Um, he was a super inspiring, uh, very wise person. And I, I, you know, the, the older I get, the more courage I see in how he was very transparent about all his emotions. It wasn’t, you know, every day he wasn’t like, you know, just full of strength and courage. He, he would share his weakness and, and obviously his disappoint-, disappointment and, and, you know, coming near the end of his life in, in his mid-thirties. And you know, I just remember like lessons from him. I, I, you know, I worked downtown Calgary and, and you know, I would go visit him twice a week and I’d get over to his house, you know, I’m throwing my jacket down. He is like, he’s like, what’s the problem? Rush hour traffic? And I’m like, yeah, it was really bad. And he goes, what I would do to sit in rush hour traffic on my way to my job right now? Right. Just those, those types of in inspiration in those moments. And he was also the kind of guy, even when we, you know, he had to go to hospice as he was deteriorating.
And he is like, we’re still gonna play poker. And we brought, you know, the kegs in and we brought all the guys in and we played poker at the hospice. And you know, he is like, why wait for this funeral thing when I’m dead and I’m gonna celebrate life now let’s bring everybody in and have this massive celebration of life. Which was just this incredible party. You know, he, he’s the kind of guy that had friends from when he was still in kindergarten, like they were still his good friends. And so it was just really inspiring to, to see yeah. Um, this, this way that he chose how to live life and, you know, I remember, you know, being in hospice, there’s a couple powerful moments that happened.
And one of those was, um, cause obviously, you know, he’s in a lot of pain and, and the hospice nurses, they did an incredible job of taking care of him. And, and the hospice doctor said to his wife and myself, she said like, I can cut back the pain medicine so that you can have conversations and he can talk to you. And we were just in this beautiful spot where we said we’ve, said everything we need to say. Like, he does not need to suffer. And, and so the, the power of visit really started to resonate with me. Right, the power of having those conversations. And I, on the last day of Ryan’s life, you know, his son at the time was four years old, his son Talon, was four. And I remember getting advice, you know, Tasha, his wife and I were getting advice and from the hospice nurses and they said, look, look at wherever Talon wants to be, let him be okay. Just do not talk in metaphor, be very direct with him. And you know, the day it, it was becoming apparent it was gonna be Ryan’s last day, uh, alive and, and Talon was with his cousins back at his house playing. And, and you know, his family was up there and his wife of course. And, and I was there and, and, um, sure enough, we get a phone call and it’s Talon and he is like, I wanna come see my dad. And you know, Tasha kind of looks at me and I look at her and we’re like, well, let’s bring him up.
Paula: Of course.
Kevin: And I’ll never forget, you know, I was, I was leaning over Ryan’s bed and, and just chatting, you know, talking to him, letting him know we’re gonna be okay. And this little hand grabbed my hand and, uh, I looked down and there was Talon. And if you know, Talon, he has the biggest blue eyes, right. He’s just looking at me and he is like, you know, Kev, what’s wrong with my dad? And you know, just said in the moment, you know, your, your dad’s dying. Do you want to give him one last hug? And he said, yeah. And I picked him up and I put him in bed. He gave his dad this big hug. And, you know, Tash had crawled in and, and was curled up beside her husband. And, and, um, they, you know, Talon fell asleep with his dad, and his dad passed away a couple hours later.
It was incredibly heartbreaking. But it was incredibly honoring to be there for my friend who I love dearly, and, and to just w witness that, to pay witness to his life and you know, one of the things about Calgary is, you know, only one in four people are born here. And I wasn’t born here, Ryan wasn’t born here, right. People come to this city. And while we were in hospice, we just saw so many people that were, you know, on the phone or talking amongst themselves, just saying, yeah, you know, dad understands you can’t afford to come to see him. And, and then, you know, when Ryan passed away and it, it, it took me years to kind of, you know, just think and reflect on that.
And, and I heard the stat about, you know, how many travel miles and loyalty programs exist. And I thought, well, if we have people donate small amounts of those travel miles, we can give these, these incredible flights to these people. Right? The people that were in the Calgary Hospice that weren’t able to see their dad and mom. And the thing is, as I’ve shared that idea, people just have rallied around it, right. Like, it’s just like, you know, we keep bumping into the right people at the right time. Um, you know, just, uh, you know, why is Air Canada, one of my favorite loyalty programs is we are trying to figure this out. Like, we’re just like, okay, how do we make these flights happen? And, and I was like, oh, we’re gonna hand bomb it. Like you can, you know, donate your miles, transfer them to my Air Canada account, I’ll pay the transfer fees. We, we can actually see if this works. And we are on Twitter just kind of, you know, talking about that, tweeting that out. Air Canada is like, you know, call us right now. And they’re like,
Paula: Oh my God. Wow.
Kevin: We have, we have a model, right? Beyond charities, uh, program and, uh, Beyond Miles program. And, and, and they, they’re like, we can do this. We’re, we’re gonna help you, right?
Paula: Oh my God.
Kevin: United Miles on a mission, same kind of thing when we showed them the idea and so, The fact that people can, you know, transfer their miles to us as a charity for $0 fees. And we, you know, we’re a hundred percent donation miles, so a hundred percent of those miles are going to flights. We get those flights out. It was just a huge, uh, huge moment for us. And, and now, right, we’re over 920 flights and obviously talking to your audience. Like it just, the people have just keep coming and, and supporting it. I’m a person with an idea. We are grassroots, we’ve been always grassroots. Uh, for the community, by the community. Uh, volunteer led. Um, we’re probably about 98% volunteer driven. I think we’re gonna have to change that a little bit as we scale, cause there, there is just so much demand. Uh, but it’s been incredible to be part of it and to keep Ryan’s legacy alive, you know.
Paula: What a story, Kevin. My goodness. It’s incredibly moving. Thank you for sharing that. Um, I have certainly lost a few people along my own journey, and I know how precious presence is. I think that’s incredible. Something that you have noticed and, and felt and found a way to, to channel into something so powerful.
Kevin: Thank you.
Paula: So, yeah, and, and, and just as a, you know, on a personal note, I fundamentally believe that we do choose, uh, who we die with actually. And I know that’s probably a profound and whatever, but you know, clearly Ryan needed you alongside his, his wife and his son. He needed your energy and obviously could feel that there was a way to maybe continue his legacy as you said. So, I am very proud to be here to share the story. Give a Mile.
Kevin: Well I’m gonna, I’m gonna reinforce your belief. I’m gonna tell you a story cause I believe the same thing and since you brought it up, I gotta tell you a story. So, I remember, you know, Ryan was in hospice, and the hospice has this beautiful patio, like, you know, second level deck and, you know, took him out there in his wheelchair and the sun was shining on him. And we’re looking at the, you know, the beautiful trees. And he says to me and goes, hey, um, Kev, I’m gonna die with you, my wife and my son and I said, hey, I’m gonna move mountains for you, man. I’ll do anything I can, but we do not get to choose these things Ryan like, you know? And he’s like, he just looked at me and shook his head like this, had this very determined look in his face, and obviously from the story I just told, you can tell that absolutely is what happened. And, and so then I look back on it now, I was like, oh, he wasn’t asking me, he was telling me what was gonna happen, right.
Paula: He knew, he knew.
Kevin: He knew, he knew what was gonna happen.
Paula: Oh, goodness.
Kevin: So I, I support your belief a 100%.
Paula: So wonderful. And I’m sure he’s with us as well and sharing this conversation as well. So, so let’s talk about the initiative then Kevin. Um, I looked obviously through your website today in preparation for our call. What I think impressed me the most is, um, of course the beautiful intention, you know, that, that’s just incredible. So, the concept is beautiful, but also I suppose, the attention to detail. So, you know, I can imagine the mindset of, of people who hear about your initiative, need your initiative, and, and are desperate to, to be considered. And that clearly is something you take extremely seriously with incredible response times, and, and really helping to reassure people to the best of your ability that you are there. That you’ve got two of the world’s biggest airlines to support them. So, tell us a bit about how the whole thing works, I guess. Maybe first of all from a, a donor’s perspective, cause I think we’re all humans first and foremost. And I, I think the important detail that I was kind of picking up, and you can correct me if, if I’m wrong, but it seems that it’s an ongoing, uh, request for donations of miles so that you have the bank of them ready when somebody needs them. Is that true?
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely, right. So, from a donor perspective, there’s a couple things. If you go to giveamile.org and we love your support. You, you know, hit the donate button, you’ll get into the donation flow. And there’s two things you can, you know, donate your miles and like I said, Air Canada, United, you can donate those and, and they’ll transfer $0. If you’re part of another program, you can pledge your miles to us. And we’ll hold onto those miles and get, when a flight matches those miles, we’ll use them, right? A 100% of those miles are gonna go to flights, absolutely, right. That’s, that’s our commitment. You can also donate money, uh, we do about 10 to 12% of our flights are in cash because. We’re, we fly in from rural areas or there’s just not a point program that feeds it, or maybe there’s no seats left or right. It’s just one of those things, so, so money also helps our costs. So please go to giveamile.org and donate.
We also have a program called Flight Hero, which an individual, a team or a company can take on, which is basically kind of a rally cry. You, you commit to raising so many miles and we have flight coaches that help you. We have, you know, canned kind of material that you can put on your social media, Facebook, and you’re really looking to your network to raise so many miles. And when that happens, we connect you to the specific flight. And then we, you know, you helped this family and they flew from here to there and you know exactly who you helped, and we try to make you connected to the impact as much as possible. On our website you can see all the flight stories are shared, so you know exactly what the flights are and, and who we’ve been helping. That’s, that’s really important to us.
Paula: For sure.
Kevin: To your point, what we do is, it’s basically, it’s almost kind of like an emergency landing system. We have a universal bucket of miles that when a family connects to us, and we’ll talk about how that works. When a family connects to us, you know, obviously we don’t want them to be in limbo of like, oh, maybe you have a flight, maybe you don’t have a flight. We lend them those miles. We, and we book that flight and then our donors, right. We lean on them to kind of backfill that for us and say, okay, that was a 50,000 mile flight. Hey, we need 50,000 miles through the door. We’ve had incredible response from the community. Used over 35 million miles so far. Um, but I can tell you the demand outstrips, uh, the supply right now and yeah, it’s extremely hard to say no to a family. Um, you can imagine because this is not like I can come back in six months and say I have the miles now.
The other thing they say is like, well, who do I call now? We are the only charity I know that is working in this space, right? So when we say no, it’s, it’s no. Um, and it’s a very tough thing on that family. So, we obviously wanna get as many people supporting us as, as we can so that we don’t have to say no.
Paula: Yeah, no, my God, I hadn’t even thought about the, the nightmare of having to say no and, and how difficult that would be. Um, and clearly you can’t always say yes either. But what struck me actually when, um, when you were talking, uh, before the last time, I guess, with, uh, with Pooja here in our team, was talking about, you know, when people feel helpless. Such as when Ryan was, I guess coming towards the end there is, I suppose this, um, I don’t know the, this upswelling of people who want to do something. Can I cook a dinner? Can I come around? Can I babysit? So, I think you’re tapping into a very powerful insight. Um, what I think we’re all here to say to you today is, yes, there is something you can do if you know somebody who is, you know, again, missing somebody they love. And, uh, and it’s a, it’s a difficult situation. So, yeah, I think the donor piece makes perfect sense. Um, sounds very easy, I know our friends in points.com uh, support you. Are they…?
Kevin: Yes. Huge supporters. Yeah, yeah.
Paula: How did they, how are they involved?
Kevin: Well, Points, uh, has, you know, financially supported us and been key sponsors when we do the Christmas campaign, which we try to get 50 flights out. We have Mothers and Father’s Day campaign. They, they’ve been a huge sponsor. Them, them and Bond. We would not be here without those two partners as well. Uh, Points is helping us with some of the technology in the background, right. We’re, we’re working on that. That’s a longer-term play and, and you know, what we hope in, you know, maybe this time next year we can talk a little bit more about, you know, how we kind of connect with some other programs and move them. But, you know, right now, financial, they also help us, I would say, from advice around kind of the technology and, and technology advisors. So really, really key partner for us. For sure, you know?
Paula: Yeah. Yeah. And again, we’ve had the guys from Bond Brand Loyalty on this show as well, so I guess they’re helping you think through how best to, you know, appeal to consumers, appeal to brands, or tell me about your work with Bond.
Kevin: Yeah, same thing. They do financial support, uh, with those campaigns and have donated to us. The key kind of advisory they’re bringing in is around the, the, the, the, um, the marketing, right? Uh, the brand…
Paula: The positioning.
Kevin: The positioning, they’ve really helped us there. We’re maturing, you know, they’ve given us really good advice. We haven’t, we’re executing a lot of the marketing plan they put in front of us. So, once again, just a, a, way for us to scale. You know, people say, you know, where do you want this to go? My big hairy, audacious goal is a billion miles, right. Which is to weigh around 40,000 flights.
Paula: Oh my gosh.
Kevin: Um, there’s no reason this couldn’t be used globally, right. One of the things we, we see, is like on TikTok and stuff, we’ve had some pretty good viral moments and people will be like, does this work in Australia? You know? Can you work? Does this work in Asia? And we’re like, not yet, not yet is the answer, right. We absolutely want to get there.
We do, do international flights to and from Canada and the US right? So, if you’re flying into a Canadian or American loved one, uh, or if you’re flying from Canada or the US to a loved one in the world. Of the 920, I think about 160 have been international in nature. Um, obviously more resources required. So it’s a, it’s a key thing obviously to have the donations involved, but we do support that as well.
Paula: Okay. And I guess the key question then is this audience is, you know, full of loyalty directors, loyalty managers and mostly in the US um, of course in the UK and Australia as well. But what would you like to say, like how can, uh, loyalty programs beyond the two that we’ve mentioned already, of course. How can other loyalty programs support you Kevin?
Kevin: Yeah, we, uh, we would love to chat with you. We would love to talk to any program that wants to become involved. Obviously, as we said earlier, we just feel it’s such a win for, you know, everybody. The brand, the people donating. Email email@example.com. Email us there and let’s get in conversation around how we do this. Uh, we would love to have more programs at the table, that means we can help more people. Um, and obviously we talked about how hard it’s to say no, so we’d absolutely love to engage in conversation for sure.
Paula: Okay. Yeah. And that’s any sector, Kevin, just for clarity, it’s not just airlines.
Kevin: So, that’s right, yeah, yeah. We’ve had, um, and I, I should have mentioned this as well. Scene has been an incredible partner. Um, and they just came in with some massive, uh, donations and support from their ecosystem of partners that have made some mass massive donations for us. To help us with flights at Christmas, right. So, uou know, we’re redeeming those for travel and so yeah, absolutely. Uh, you know, when people ask me about hotels and rental cars there, those are things we’re working on later. Right now we’re focused on flights. Uh, but anything like, obviously rail, uh, bus, um, we do get those requests. People are scared to fly. Uh, people were scared to fly through COVID obviously. They’re like, hey, can you get me on a train? Can you get me on a bus? We’d love to expand there, we are open to conversation because at the end of the day. What, we are for a for-profit company, I would say our measurement is those families connected, right?
Like, that would be our revenue. That is what we are focused on. We wanna do more and more of that. And like I said, we are just seeing the demand through the roof with inflation and, and the economic issues that are going on. So , let’s get involved in a conversation and see if there’s a, a partnership and if we can make something work.
Paula: Okay, so guys, you’re heard it here. Uh, Kevin is super keen to talk to all of you. I’m gonna say not just a few.
Kevin: Yes, that’s right.
Paula: So yeah, let’s get in touch. We’ll make sure, of course, Kevin to link, uh, to your, you know, LinkedIn profile and obviously people can reach you through us as well. And actually we have Scene coming on Let’s Talk Loyalty tomorrow.
Kevin: Oh, beautiful. That’s beautiful.
Paula: Yeah. Also going to be, uh, to, to be chatting with those guys. So, lots of great stuff happening, I guess overall in the Canadian loyalty market. Um, and I guess the, the key thing that I hear, Kevin, is, you know, as loyalty program owners, I’m constantly being asked this question, like everybody talks about with two different things.
You’ve probably heard this from the guys in Bond, for example. There’s transactional loyalty. And then there’s emotional loyalty. And we all know that, um, you know, charity is, is one of the biggest levers that we can, you know, connect our brands to. Um, what I love about yours, I suppose, is the fact that it is really the only solution, as you said, for a, a crisis moment in time. And as human beings, we, we’ve all been in a situation where there’s loved ones that we want to be, uh, close to. So please help.
Kevin: And the other thing I would add there, just from a, uh, the branding perspective is, you know, one of the things that’s, um, it’s powerful for us and Give a Mile that’s a little more intangible in some charities that do amazing work, is I can connect you right to the impact, right. You know, you helped this family fly from here to there. Other things we’re working on some things that are more difficult. We know, like climate change, right. It’s a little harder to understand the impact. We can connect these people, these people that are donating right to the, to the impact they’re making happen, which obviously is, to your point, it’s hugely emotionally impactful for all of us involved. We would, we would love to do that for sure. You know?
Paula: Well, honestly, I just think it is a beautiful proposition, as I said, Kevin, uh, huge credit to you and especially now, thank you, around the fest of season when we’re all getting a chance maybe to reflect and even as you talked about Ryan, and you know, his comment about, I wish I was in a traffic jam. I remember seeing a very powerful quote saying, you know, healthy people want a thousand different things, sick people only want one. That’s, there you go.
Kevin: Absolutely, yeah, yeah. Now I just wanna also just talk about the, the people applying for flights, right? And then just…
Paula: Yeah, please do.
Kevin: There’s a couple key things to your point. One is we mainly work with hospices, cancer centers, ICU units, right? Every flight is medically verified. Um, we have a, basically it’s roughly a two page, uh, form that a family has to fill out. We try to keep it as simple as possible, cause you can imagine how stressful it is. Um, there’s medical verification, um, and. We take those flights through a flight review team, we do that very, very quickly. Uh, and basically we’re looking at, you know, our, our resources we have available. Um, try looking at kind of getting them booked. Is it feasible? Can we actually find flights, that type of thing. Then we approve the flight and then we have amazing volunteer travel agents that work for us that book those flights and work with the family, right. Give the, the ticket to the family and, and offer the rest as we go. To your point, we try to do that as quickly as possible. As you can imagine, we literally had people call us, you know, and say, I need to get on a flight now. Like, not, an hour from now, now. We do our best to fill that. Um, you know, sometimes we’re able to get people out that night. Most of the time we get people out the next day. Uh, obviously any heads-up time, you can give us the better, right. It helps us just find you a seat. But one of the powerful things I remember is it was in like, I think it was in our first 10 or 15 flights we gave away. Uh, was a, a gentleman, his family, uh, was from Central America. He, he was here in Canada, unfortunately, had stage four cancer. Uh, and he needed his family to come see him. And, you know, it was our first kind, I think it was right around our first international flight. So, you know, we went away, and I was talking to the team and we were working on it, and I called him back, like, I think it was like two days later, and I said, hey Pedro, we have the flight. We’re, we’re, we’re able to make these flights happen. He said, Kev, that’s amazing. He like, I can’t say thank you enough. I have not slept for two days cause this is all I’ve been focused on. This is all my energy. Why I’m trying to, you know, stay strong and, and stay alive is to see my family again. And I said to myself, we’re not gonna do that again, right. Like, we have to turn these things around fast, um, and we’ve gotta take care of these families because it is just, at the center of what’s going on in their lives right now. I know we had a, a woman, we flew her, her daughter and granddaughter to her, uh, from New York and, and into Canada. And I talked to her, you know, she was in hospice and she said, if someone showed up with like a million dollars in a suitcase right now, it’s meaningless. This, this is literally the lottery for me. The fact that I get to see them one more time. She goes, I cannot put into words how important this is, uh, of a gift you’ve given.
And so we, we take that very, um, to heart and we’re very much a key thing for us to look after those families. Um, and we’ve had families literally that can’t fill in the application form just cause of the stress and the overwhelming, um, kind of weight on them. I know one woman that reached out, she’s like, I literally have to go fly to see my mom, she’s on life support. I have to make the decision to take her off life support and then obviously execute all the administration around that, I cannot even think. And our incredible travel agents that book the flights, they’re like, we’ll get on the phone with you and we’ll fill it out for you, I just need this information, right uh, to book the flight. And so I can’t say enough about those volunteers and how well they take care of those families, you know?
Paula: How many volunteers do you have, Kevin? That sounds like an incredible team.
Kevin: Yeah, we’re, we’re roughly about 30. Um, and I say roughly cause for events and things we do, we kind of expand. And then I would say right now there’s about, you know, 15 people that are almost working on, Give a Mile on a daily basis, right.
Paula: My Goodness.
Kevin: You know, the travel agents, the flight review team, right. We do have some administration of course. And, and these are people I, I cannot put into words um, their hearts and how committed they are to this organization, like I said, I’m, I’m a person with a, an idea. These are the people that make it happen day in and day out and just how committed they are to make sure those families get on those flights. It’s, it’s, I don’t have words for it, you know?
Paula: Yeah. And just to be also crystal clear, cause I saw it on your website, you are a registered charity. So when you talk about your objectives and KPIs, they are, are purely every single mile, every single cent is paying for flights and taxes and just connecting people, as you said, to a, to a point of, uh, connection.
Kevin: That’s correct, yeah. Both in Canada and the US we’re a registered charity. We can give tax receipts for financial donations. Uh, we don’t do that on the, on the miles side or the point side. Uh, but yeah, we are, we are committed, um, to execute as many flights as we can, right. That, that is our goal.
Paula: Yeah. Well, it’s a wonderful story, um, a wonderful idea, and I’m so pleased to hear all the synchronicity actually, that, you know, the stars aligned as you said. I often feel that that’s the sign that the universe is actually guiding, supporting, and creating something for you. So…
Kevin: I’m with you there, absolutely.
Paula: So listen, I don’t have any other questions for you, Kevin. Um, anything else that you want to mention before we wrap?
Kevin: I’m just, I’m gonna share one quick flight story, and it’s just from a few days ago just to, once again, emphasis what we can create together, this community on this phone, right. We had a woman reach out and she’s like, my dad is dying alone in hospice right now. He’s calling me every day.
Paula: Oh my God.
Kevin: Can you get me on a flight to be there with him? And because of the donations we’ve had and the support from the Bonds and the Points, and Air Canada, United and Scene, she got to go see her dad, right. We can do that, and we can do more of that together. So, I really appreciate this time and this opportunity to share with your community.
Paula: For sure. Yeah. And well done as well on creating the, um, the full closed loop, I guess Kevin, you know, the videos, I mean, you know, I couldn’t watch too many cause I was like, I’ll just be sobbing through the interviews.
Kevin: Yes, yeah.
Paula: But we, we all know exactly how meaningful that is. So, um, So listen, with that said, we will make sure that everybody knows where to find, Give a Mile. And from our side as Let’s Talk Loyalty, we would love to stay in touch with you and maybe again, this time next year have you on the show and get an update on how many more flights you have, um, you’ve been able to, to donate, uh, and give people and we’ll be part of your PR plan or whatever we can do in terms of supporting you from our side, yeah?
Kevin: Oh, thanks so much, Paula. That’s awesome. We’d love to be back on. We’d love it.
Paula: Great. Okay. Kevin Crowe, founder of Give a Mile. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.
Kevin: Thank you.
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