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Our Mission

Air Transportation

Children’s Flight of Hope (CFOH) provides air transportation for children in need of specialized medical care. Commercial and limited private options are available, and CFOH also supports some international requests through a partnership with American Airlines.  CFOH is not an air ambulance service and no medical support is provided during the flight. Flights are provided in three ways:

Commercial Flights

For the majority of our families, CFOH purchases commercial airline tickets for a child and one companion once they have been approved for travel. CFOH arranges flights with all major commercial airlines. CFOH families benefit from donated miles and vouchers from individual and corporate donors, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

Miles for Kids in Need

Since 2016, CFOH has administered part of the American Airlines “Miles for Our Well-Being” program. This partnership has extended CFOH’s ability to provide support to children domestically and internationally. Children must be referred to CFOH directly from American Airlines or through an approved partner organization. To learn more about Miles for Our Well-Being, visit this website.

Private Charter or Corporate Donation

If a child requires a private flight for verified medical reasons, CFOH arranges and funds services through a private air charter company or acquires a flight and crew donation through our generous corporate partners. These flights assist some of our most medically vulnerable clients.

Commitment to Our Families

Though our budget is not unlimited, we make every effort to live by the motto “Once a CFOH family, always a CFOH family.” We understand that one appointment is often not enough to treat an illness or injury. Once a child has been accepted into our program, we strive to provide flights for the duration of the treatment or medical care needed, becoming a integral part of each child’s treatment plan. Our consistency brings comfort throughout a family’s medical journey.

We send each child a backpack care package before their first CFOH flight containing travel essentials, a cuddly blanket and aviation teddy bear, coloring books and details about what to expect when traveling. On commercial flights, CFOH staff contacts the airlines and airport security to ensure the day of travel is as logistically smooth as possible. On private flights, a CFOH Family Flight Liaison accompanies the family on the flight to provide any non-medical support.

While CFOH does not fund ground transportation or housing accommodations related to treatment, we encourage families to connect with other community support services like those listed here.

Guiding Principles

In all that we do, we consider what is best for the medically-vulnerable children we serve. Board leadership, staff and volunteers integrate compassion, responsiveness, safety, financial responsibility, transparency and gratitude as guides for organizational decisions and actions.


CFOH provides services with kindness and empathy in a way that brings comfort to families facing significant health crises. We become a dependable resource that our families can rely on during the most critical times.


CFOH provides prompt and courteous service to those who request our services, those who support our organization and all those with whom we interact.


CFOH prioritizes the safety of our families during all aspects of air travel, both commercial and private.

Financial Responsibility

We are committed to financially responsible decisions that ensure that all donor funds are used properly and efficiently.


CFOH maintains the highest level of integrity and transparency, particularly related to organizational finances and operations.


CFOH is appreciative of the many donors, volunteers and supporters who make our mission possible. We strive to show this gratitude daily in all of our interactions.

Our History

The idea for Children’s Flight of Hope was conceived in 1990 in Durham, NC by pilot and businessman Al Wethington. After becoming aware of several local children who had medical problems that could be treated at distant hospitals, but who lacked safe and affordable transportation to these facilities, Al knew he could help solve the problem. He put his talents to use, inviting pilots, medical personnel and community volunteers to join him. Within months, Children’s Flight of Hope was off the ground.

Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) entity in 1991, CFOH has continued to implement the mission initially defined by Al, flying hundreds of children and their families to and from medical treatments.

Al Wethington devoted many years of service to Children’s Flight of Hope and today we consistently uphold the same standards of care put in place by our founder, first president and first pilot.

Read about our 2018 accomplishments in our annual report here.

Our Staff and Board of Directors


Pat Nelli
Executive Director
Lori M. Smith, M.Ed.
Sr. Director of Development & Operations
Stephanie Thompson, MS
Director of Mission Delivery

Board of Directors

Jennifer Wade
CFOH Chair
Moe’s Southwest Grill

Rick Gardner
CFOH Immediate Past Chair 
RGA Investments

Deborah Nunn
D&H Support Solutions, Inc.

Daren Baughman
SAS Institute, Inc.
Senior Procurement Analyst

David Byerley
BB&T now Truist
Senior Vice President, Middle Market Banking

Matt Callahan
Callahan Construction & Development Co.
President & CEO

Jeff Causey
Causey Aviation
Chief Operating Officer

Herbert Fuchs, MD
Duke University Medical Center
Head of Pediatric Neurosurgical Services

Debra Perry
Software Executive

Gill Cooper
First Federal Bank
Commercial Relationship Manager

Jo-Anne Coombes
Bolt PR
Vice President

Joe Dillon
SharpVue Capital, LLC

Joe Elphick
3C! Packaging

Rachid Bendali
LORD Corporation
Vice President, Global Aerospace & Defense

Advisory Board

Rob Gooding
Vice President
Accentuate Staffing
Abel Zalcberg
ABCZ Properties, LLC

Stories of Hope

The greatest reward for CFOH is hearing the stories of the families weve helped.

They are stories of courage, of compassion, of love, and - most certainly - of hope.