Originally called Angel Plane, we started out flying regionally on private charters. Over the years, we became an engaged member of the Las Vegas community, staging a series of popular air shows to raise funds as we grew our network of pilots, started flying coast to coast and helped an ever-increasing number of children in need of specialty care that was only available far from home.
In 1996 we became Miracle Flights for Kids and began to earn national recognition for our work, including President George H.W. Bush’s Daily Points of Light Award in 2001.
By 2005, we were coordinating thousands of flights every month. We began flying our families exclusively on commercial airlines – where flights were more economical, more frequent and, in many cases, more convenient for our flyers. Demand continued to increase, and in 2010 we coordinated our 50,000th flight.
In 2013, as we celebrated three consecutive years as a top-rated nonprofit on greatnonprofits.com, our organization received a one-time financial gift so large that it changed the dynamics of our organization. The money – more than $40 million – came from a class action lawsuit completely unrelated to our organization that was filed against two airlines over fuel surcharges. The judge ordered that all unclaimed money in the settlement go to a worthy charity. He chose Miracle Flights.
Before that, our organization had operated on a shoestring budget, often unsure of how we would fund operations for the following year. Those lean times taught us the importance of urgency, accountability and engagement with our donors – attributes that became part of our organization’s DNA. In hopes of preserving those characteristics – and ensuring our organization’s future for decades to come – we decided to treat that large donation as a kind of endowment, preserving the principal and funding a portion of our operation with the investment income.