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The end of the year is always a time of reflection, and I hope you would agree that while 2011 will be remembered as a challenging year for most people, there is still much for which we can all be thankful. Near the top of the list is our ability to help those less fortunate than ourselves. When children are involved, that ability brings a special joy. With that in mind, I would like to use this month’s column to describe some of the ways the people of American Airlines — in concert with customers like you — are helping children all over the world.
The American Airlines Kids in Need program supports a variety of organizations devoted to improving the lives of children with medical, educational or other special needs and to raising public awareness of children’s issues. One of the most powerful tools at our disposal is our Miles for Kids in Need program, which gives AAdvantage? members a way to donate miles that provide transportation to children in need of medical care. Last year, AAdvantage members donated more than 80 million of their unused miles to help over 300 kids get the care they needed.
Through the Kids in Need program, we are also proud sponsors of the Something mAAgic Foundation and their signature event, the mAAgic flight, which gives children with chronic or life-threatening maladies an all-expenses-paid vacation. This year, we flew 33 kids from around the world, along with their families, to Orlando, Fla., where they spent seven fun-filled days visiting Central Florida’s wonderful attractions.
With our flight attendants in the lead, we are also very involved in the Change for Good program, one of the best-known and longest-?running campaigns of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, UNICEF provides medicine, immunizations, clean water and other lifesaving assistance to vulnerable children in more than 150 countries around the world. UNICEF is the official charity of the oneworld alliance, and since 1999, the oneworld carriers have raised tens of millions of dollars to help children in need. Much of that money has come from Change for Good, which gives international travelers the opportunity to donate unused currency to UNICEF via our flight attendants. A handful of coins or a few loose bills may seem like a small contribution, but the impact is anything but small.
Change for Good works — and by “works,” I mean it saves children’s lives — because customers like you give generously and because our flight attendants are passionate and committed to its success. Last year, AA customers donated more than $1.6 million — the highest amount in the program’s 16-year history. Let’s set a new record this year!
Change for Good is not the only opportunity we have to help UNICEF save children’s lives. I’m sure you’re on the lookout for meaningful gift ideas this holiday season, so I hope you’ll visit www.unicefusa.org/shop, where you will find not just cards and gifts but an opportunity to honor your friends and loved ones while helping to provide health care, clean water, nutrition, education and emergency relief to children all over the world.
One final children’s initiative that is close to my heart (you may recall me mentioning it in last month’s column) is Snowball Express. Each year, with the help of hundreds of AA volunteers, ?Snowball Express provides a fun, all-expenses-paid holiday for children and spouses of fallen military heroes. As the official airline of Snowball Express, we are proud to bring some measure of joy to families who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.
In these troubled times, the problems of the world are so numerous and complex that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and it is tempting to conclude that there is nothing we can do to make a difference. But we know that’s not true. We may not be able to solve the world’s problems, at least not by ourselves, but we can all make a difference simply by reaching out and doing what comes naturally. If you would like to learn more about our efforts to help kids in need, please visit AA.com/JoinUs — and then please do join us!
With the year drawing to a close, I want to thank you on behalf of everyone at American Airlines for honoring us with your business this year and wish you and yours the best of everything in 2012.
Have a great trip and Merry Christmas!
Gerard J. Arpey