When a family member asked Malky Kaufman of Monroe, NY, for help getting airplane tickets from New York to Cleveland to receive medical treatment, she volunteered to arrange the tickets using airline mileage. Later, the same relative had to go back to Cleveland for surgery, and again, Mrs. Kaufman booked the tickets. At the last minute, due to medical complications, the surgery had to be rescheduled. Mrs.
Kaufman was amazed how easy it was to cancel all the reservations and rebook when the patient was ready to go. “If we would have paid cash for those tickets it would have been very expensive to change them,” says Mrs. Kaufman.
Seeing a need in the community, Mrs. Kaufman and her husband, Kalman, founded an organization, Miles for Life, dedicated to arranging travel for Jewish patients using airline mileage donated by community members. While most of their patients travel from New York, Miles for Life has also helped patients from Denver, Chicago, and other U.S. communities, as well as Jews from Israel who begin their treatment on the East Coast but need to continue elsewhere in the U.S. Their most frequent destinations include the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, as well as several medical centers in Los Angeles. To date, Miles for Life has booked over 800 tickets, with the current rate of about eight tickets a day. Several nation-wide organizations, such as Chai Lifeline and RCCS, refer their patients to Miles for Life. “We understand what they are going through, and we want to make sure that the patient is comfortable,” says Mrs. Kaufman.
The staff of Miles for Life has witnessed tremendous hashgacha pratis in their work. The most memorable story, recalls Mrs. Kaufman, was of a Brooklyn resident who donated miles that were about to expire, just enough for a one-way ticket. Mrs. Kaufman used these miles to book a ticket for a boy from Israel who needed brain surgery at Mayo Clinic. She noticed that the boy had the same last name as the miles donor. It turned out that the boy was the nephew of the miles donor, who at the time of the donation had been unaware of her nephew’s diagnosis and had not realized that her donation would help save her own nephew’s life. Baruch Hashem, the surgery was successful, and the boy is now back in Israel.
Miles for Life is unique in that it only uses airline miles in its work. There is no fundraising and no middleman. All the miles donated go directly towards airline tickets for patients. They accept mileage from any airline, as well as miles accumulated in a credit card account. Mrs. Kaufman emphasizes that the tickets purchased with the donated miles are worth a lot more than the miles’ cash value. “Most people don’t maximize their points,” she says. “We find real good deals, with the least amount of miles. We get ten times more than their value in credit card cashback.”
For more information, or to contribute miles, visit milesforlife.org