ShareThis Page

Unused airline miles go long way for kids

| Monday, April 15, 2013, 12:08 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Michael Snow, left, 16, and his brother Adam, 15, prepare their fishing rods along the Cowanshannock Creek in the opening day of trout season on Saturday, April 13, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Adam Snow, 15, fishes along the Cowanshannock Creek in the opening day of trout season on Saturday, April 13, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dis
Melvin Snow and his sons, Adam, 15, and Michael, 16, prepare some minnows before they head to the Cowanshannock Creek in the opening day of trout season on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

The only thing Adam Snow would like better than catching his favorite bass or trout in the Allegheny River and Cowanshannock Creek would be snagging a giant halibut in Alaska.

After surviving and recovering from a liver transplant just 36 hours before doctors predicted he would die, Snow, 15, of Butler will get that chance. The Make-A-Wish Foundation started a campaign to help the dreams of seriously ill youths such as Snow take flight.

Throughout April, Make-A-Wish is encouraging people with unused air miles from Delta, US Airways and United to donate them to the foundation so it can provide airline tickets to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. The Wishes in Flight program celebrates World Wish Day on April 29 in memory of the first Make-A-Wish recipient, Chris Greicius. In 1980, the foundation granted the 7-year-old boy's wish of being a police officer in Phoenix. He died of leukemia a couple of days later.

The Western Pennsylvania chapter grants 700 wishes a year, and 75 percent require air travel. The foundation estimates there are 14 trillion unused air miles in frequent-flier accounts around the world.

“Even if you don't have a lot (of miles) to donate, every little bit helps,” said Dana Antkowiak, spokeswoman for Make-A-Wish Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia.

Snow, a freshman at Butler Intermediate High School, contracted an airborne virus that destroyed 90 percent of his liver and left him in a coma barely clinging to life last November. Two hours after doctors harvested a donor's liver, Snow was on the operating table.

Fully recovered, he, his parents and brother, Michael, will go halibut fishing in Alaska in August. Donated air miles provided for two of those tickets, Antkowiak said.

“I was thinking about places I always wanted to go, and Alaska popped up,” Snow said. “Alaska is one of those places you want to go at least once in your lifetime.”

Lisa Roberts and Frank Tirone remember the trips their sick children took.

Three years ago, doctors removed a cancerous tumor from the brain of Domenic Tirone, now 11, of West Homestead. After he recovered, Make-a-Wish granted his wish of seeing volcanoes in Hawaii.

“Because of everything we had gone through, me and my wife were devoting a lot of attention to him,” said Frank Tirone. “The other kids weren't getting the attention they deserved. That time together helped bring us back together as a family.”

Kylen Roberts, 6, of Greensburg has epilepsy that causes convulsions so severe that he has to wear a helmet. Make-A-Wish paid for his family to go to San Diego to see the zoo and Legoland. His mother, Lisa, 34, said God held off his seizures during the trip, and Kylen constantly begs her to go back.

“I got to pet a penguin,” he said. “They got short hair.”

Snow's mother, Linda, said she hopes people donate air miles to other families of seriously ill children.

“Your family goes through the scare, the fear, and this is one heck of a good break,” she said.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.