“The birthright of every child is a healthy life.” Miracle Flights Founder Ann McGee
Hoping to find purpose in a life that suddenly seemed so empty, Ann vowed to dedicate her life to preventing other families from ever having to experience the unimaginable grief and heartbreak she felt over losing her child to illness and disease.
During that sad time Ann came to realize that there was a gap in the United States healthcare system: That of a lack of access to healthcare for low-income families with children who were burdened with rare and catastrophic illnesses. Children with rare diseases and disabilities must travel far distances to be treated by possibly the only specialist hospital in the entire world that can treat their condition or provide a coveted second opinion. Due to the limitations of insurance and government programs, low-income families are unable to access the specialized care their child needs due to distance, because distance is expensive, and flights are unaffordable for most low-income families. Often, access to specialized treatment requires ten or twenty, or even lifetime trips to the best medical care available.
Never wavering from her conviction that the birthright of every child is a healthy life, Ann found her purpose and her passion: Improving the lives of sick children through flight.
In 1985, still reeling from the loss of her only child, Ann formed the nonprofit, charitable organization Miracle Flights for Kids, and ran the organization out of her small apartment in Las Vegas, Nevada. She arranged free flights on private aircraft for catastrophically ill children, including babies in-utero, con-joined twins, and children with life-threatening disabilities. The first year 30 flights to distant care were provided by Miracle Flights for Kids to low-income families in Las Vegas, for free.
News of Ann’s efforts travelled quickly among pilots across the nation, and due to this overwhelming response, Ann traveled the country to establish squadrons of heroic private pilots in 32 states. Ann aptly called this first Miracle Flights for Kids’ program “PROJECT HERO”.
In a time before computers, cell phones, email and modern technology, Ann did not stop there. The next charitable program to save the lives of sick children was called the “BAJA PROJECT,” whereby she would dispatch U.S. pilots with donated aircrafts to orphanages and St. Andrews Crippled Children’s Clinic in Mexico to pick up crippled children, bring them to the United States for treatment, and return them back home to Mexico; children who would never receive the life-giving treatment without the help of Miracle Flights for Kids free flights.
Soon, the need for longer distance flights exceeded the distance the private aircraft could fly, and Ann developed the “WINGS ACROSS AMERICA” program that allowed families to access life-saving healthcare from coast-to-coast. In order to accomplish this enormous task, Ann began raising funds and forming airline partnerships to provide families with free airline tickets, in order to get all of America’s children well.
Altogether, Ann established eleven charitable flight programs to help sick children survive and then thrive, including “Camp Flights” that would provide free transportation for children who medically benefit from week-long camps for children with specific diseases such as dwarfism, and Diabetes, so that children of low-income families would have the opportunity to receive medical care and education, and to establish heartfelt, life-long friendships with other children suffering with the same affliction or disease.
Understanding that the training and comfort of service animals are a form of medicine and treatment for many children with disabling conditions, Ann implemented the “SERVICE ANIMAL FLIGHTS” program. This program flies disabled children to meet their service dogs at training facilities, and if they are found to be compatible, Miracle Flights flies the child and his/her forever service companion back home to their healthier and happier life together.
Ann McGee, true to her belief that “No child should be denied access to the best medical treatment, no matter where it is located,” then established the “MIRACLE FLIGHTS FOR KIDS INTERNATIONAL” program which allowed for free flights for sick and disabled children worldwide. Due to her vision and leadership, Miracle Flights for Kids today provides free flights for children with rare diseases in 42 countries, from as far away as Azerbaijan, Honduras, Egypt, the Philippines, and New Zealand, so that they too can access the best state-of-the-art specialized medical care and surgeries available in the world.
When a hurricane devastated Hawaii, Ann managed an airlift of supplies, and when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, Ann managed the airlift of a young boy with Muscular Dystrophy to the safety of his mother’s arms.
In addition to handling the day-to-day operations at Miracle Flights for Kids, Ann was also the face of the organization since its inception until her retirement. She received many national awards that would bring awareness to Miracle Flights for Kids’ mission, appearing on Martha Stewart “Dreams Into Doers” award show, The Montel Williams Show, and the CNN Heroes broadcast. Ann received many national awards including the Medal of Excellence Award from the Freedom’s Foundation at Valley Forge, was named “Woman of the Year” by Roosevelt University and received multiple Congressional Recognitions. Ann also received the “Woman Who Makes a Difference Award” in Town and Country Magazine and was featured in People Magazine and the National Enquirer.
Most importantly, due to the national publicity that Ann garnered for the charity, Miracle Flights for Kids was chosen to be the recipient of a $54,000,000.00 CyPres award from a British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airlines pledge. This award along with Ann’s passion, dedication, vision, leadership and decades of hard work, will allow Miracle Flights for Kids to provide free flights for sick children from every country in the world, in perpetuity.
The final program Ann initiated before her retirement is a partnership with the World Pediatric Project. Through this partnership, Miracle Flights assists in flying 55 teams of doctors and planes full of medical equipment, every year, to poverty stricken Caribbean islands, like Haiti, to perform heart, orthopedic, cleft palate, and other surgeries for children whose families would otherwise never be able to access these lifesaving surgeries on their own.
After devoting thirty-four years to the organization, Ann retired as Founder and National President of Miracle Flights for Kids in 2015 with 100,000 flights being provided for free to families with sick children all over the world – logging 47,000,000 miles coordinated and flown. Ann retired from the board of directors in 2019.
Today, Ann is enjoying retirement with her husband Bill, who for twenty years brought his thirty years of aerospace experience to his HR position at Miracle Flights for Kids enabling the organization to grow to even greater heights.
In retrospect, Ann reflects upon her life’s path, “The past 34 years have been nothing short of an amazing journey for me. I am privileged to have borne witness to the success stories of the thousands of young, fragile lives that I, along with our donors, staff and volunteers, have been able to help care for. Truly, Miracle Flights for Kids is saving lives every day.”
“As my heart will carry each and every one of their faces forever and on, the only questions that remains is, who has been the more fortunate, the children, or me?”
Certain aspects of this biography have not been verified.