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Carroll Hospital first in Maryland to receive supplies from teenage pilot TJ Kim

A small group of Carroll Hospital officials watched the skies and the runway Monday morning at Carroll County Regional Airport.

Ellen Finnerty Myers, the hospital’s vice president of corporate development and chief development officer, had her cellphone at the ready to get visual proof of a special delivery.

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“I feel like I’m looking for Santa’s sleigh!” Myers said a few minutes before packaged gifts came from the sky.

Rather than from Santa Claus, though, the goods were provided by TJ Kim, a 16-year-old from McLean, Virginia, who is working on getting his student pilot’s certificate and helping others at the same time.

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Kim is a high school junior-to-be who plays three sports at Landon School in Bethesda, but when schools were shut down in March amid the coronavirus pandemic he had a little more time on his hands. Lacrosse season came to an end, but Kim found time to complete his schoolwork and maintain his aviation schedule.

TJ Kim, a 16-year-old flight student from McLean, Va., and Dave Powell, flight instructor with Aero Elite Flight Training, inspect a Cessna 172 Skyhawk before making their return flight from Carroll County Regional Airport to Leesburg, Va., on Monday, August 17. Kim is using his flight training hours to deliver personal protective equipment to hospitals in rural areas in the region.
TJ Kim, a 16-year-old flight student from McLean, Va., and Dave Powell, flight instructor with Aero Elite Flight Training, inspect a Cessna 172 Skyhawk before making their return flight from Carroll County Regional Airport to Leesburg, Va., on Monday, August 17. Kim is using his flight training hours to deliver personal protective equipment to hospitals in rural areas in the region. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Kim said his passion for flying started when he was a toddler, and last year as a birthday present his father gave him an introductory flight lesson. There he met Dave Powell, a flight instructor at Aero Elite Flight Training in Leesburg, Virginia. Kim was soon taking flights with Powell in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, a four-seat, single-engine, fixed wing aircraft.

But Kim had more plans for his air travels. He said he wanted to gain experience hours while adding a community service component. So he came up with Operation SOS, which stands for “Supplies Over Skies,” as a way to deliver goods to area hospitals.

After meeting Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s wife Yumi at a recent Korean War Veterans Memorial event, and learning that the state’s First Lady had heard of what he was doing with his flights in his home state, Kim said he told her he’d be happy to add Maryland to his list of deliveries.

Carroll Hospital became the state’s first to receive donated goods from Operation SOS when Kim touched down Monday morning at the airport in his Cessna No. N452TH. He has another delivery scheduled for St. Mary’s County later this week.

Hospital President Garrett Hoover and other hospital officials were waiting to welcome the teen upon finishing his 30-minute flight from Leesburg to Westminster.

Myers pulled her SUV inside the gate where Kim completed his landing so eight boxes ― more than 3,700 pieces of hospital supplies ― could be exchanged. Kim and Powell helped the Carroll Hospital group place boxes in Myers’ vehicle, and each package was personalized by Kim with well-wishes.

Most of Kim’s deliveries include masks, gloves, shoe covers, gowns, and sanitizer. Carroll Hospital was also set to receive a ventilator, a first for Kim and his Operation SOS.

Boxes of supplies for Carroll Hospiral, delivered by TJ Kim, a 16-year-old flight student from McLean, Va., after his arrival at Carroll County Regional Airport on Monday, August 17. Kim is using his flight training hours to deliver personal protective equipment to hospitals in rural areas in the region.
Boxes of supplies for Carroll Hospiral, delivered by TJ Kim, a 16-year-old flight student from McLean, Va., after his arrival at Carroll County Regional Airport on Monday, August 17. Kim is using his flight training hours to deliver personal protective equipment to hospitals in rural areas in the region. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

“We don’t have a dire shortage [of supplies], which is a great thing,” Hoover said. “But during the height of the pandemic, we did have some real challenges securing masks and gowns, and now gloves. So to have someone that has some interest in serving the community in this fashion is just phenomenal. I’m so impressed by this young man’s efforts.”

Kim said Monday’s trip was the 19th that involved him delivering supplies to those in need. Local donations come to him and his family, and Kim gets up in the air with Powell as he works toward gaining his certification.

“Flying is definitely what I want to do,” Kim said.

Operation SOS is set to make three more trips around the region this week, Kim said. He said he wants to pursue a career in flying, and Kim will be applying to the military’s service branches with an eye toward the Naval Academy.

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“It’s just been a great experience,” he said, “to be able to do something like this and help out at the same time.”

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