July 25, 2019

Since 2016, Cutter Aviation Albuquerque’s Co-Pilot program has provided pediatric patients with stuffed animals to accompany them on their travels. The program partners with air ambulance crews and Angel Flight and is sponsored in part by a silent donor.

Cutter Aviation staff carefully choose toys that meet criteria to ensure child safety, meaning no buttons or other features that may be choking hazards. The toys are inspected and packaged with a note naming the stuffed traveling buddy and sending a message of encouragement from the Cutter crew. All stuffed animals have aviation-themed names and the letter tells the kids to hug their new friends whenever they are scared or worried.

Jessi Rowden, general manager for Cutter Aviation Albuquerque, says the entire team is involved in the program. Customer service representatives write letters and prepare animal packages while line personnel deliver the packages to the aircraft upon notification from pilots over UNICOM that a pediatric patient is on the way.

Rowden explained their facility sees a significant number of medical transfers every day as patients are transported from rural areas to medical facilities in Albuquerque.

“A lot of time kids being transported for medical care don’t have time to pick up personal items, so they don’t have anything familiar to them like their blankies or dolls. This program gives them something that is ‘theirs’ in an unfamiliar and scary situation,” said Rowden. “The message included with the stuffed animal lets the children know the whole team at Cutter is cheering for them and wishing them well.”

Rowden encourages other aviation organizations involved in patient transportation to adopt a similar program.

“There’s never ‘too much’ good that can be put into the world,” concluded Rowden. “It takes a whole community to care for our little ones.”