Program gives airline miles to families of sick

February 25, 2009 2:44:19 PM PST
Many charities are concerned about the impact the nation's recession will have on their bottom line.With millions of Americans out of work and everyone cutting back on spending, many are not able to donate as much as in the past. But there was a surprise Wednesday for some kids at Children's Memorial Hospital.

All of the pediatric cancer patients at the hospital received a "May I Hug You" bear.

"If you have a bear with you, you're not scared anymore," said young patient Cahleah Caffey.

This is the second year United Airlines and the American Cancer Society have teamed up for this project. It's made possible by contributions by United customers. United customers could contribute money toward the teddy bear project or give frequent flyer miles to the cancer society.

The Illinois president of the American Cancer Society sees donors looking for ways to help that don't involve money. She says the miles will allow financially strapped families be together during difficult times.

"Can you imagine undergoing cancer treatment without family support?" said Dr. Mary Maryland, American Cancer Society, Ill. Division.

Chicagoan Jen Mason donated her 33,000 United miles to the program.

"It was like currency, and I had it available and it's a great program in order to quickly make a big difference," she said.

Mason says she would normally have money deducted from her paycheck for charity but was laid off the end of last year.

"Everybody is looking for a way to scale back but to contribute and this is a good way to look around and see how you can give," said Mason.

She's able to spend more time with her healthy baby girl, Riley. Despite downsizing, selling her home and a vehicle, Mason wanted to help families who are struggling with an illness. There wasn't extra cash to donate, but she had miles.