The Safeco Insurance® Agent Giving Program celebrates local heroes — nominated by agents — who make a positive difference in their communities with Community Hero Awards. Each award includes a $5,000 donation from Safeco Insurance that is given to the nonprofit on behalf of the hero and the agent who nominated them. Each hero is entered in the Vote for your favorite Safeco Community Hero contest.

Wings of love that give a lift and a priceless gift

Community hero: Joseph DeMarco
Charity: Wings Flights of Hope, Orchard Park, N.Y.

When a child in Buffalo, New York is awaiting a life-saving transplant organ and one suddenly becomes available in Baltimore, Maryland, time is of the essence.  So what can be done when a young life hangs in the balance, and there are approximately 300 miles between the patient and his new organ?

Thanks to a remarkable organization called Wings Flights of Hope in Orchard Park, New York, that child – or anyone else in the same situation – can be flown at no charge, on a moment’s notice, to the hospital where the organ awaits.

Wings Flights of Hope is an organization comprising volunteer pilots who make themselves available to fly patients in need anywhere in the Northeastern United States. Guided by its core belief that transportation should never stand in the way of a patient receiving the best possible medical care and treatment available, the organization flies individuals of all ages around the region for organ transplants, surgeries, cancer treatment and specialized care that’s unavailable locally.

Essentially, Wings Flights of Hope’s licensed pilots help anyone, anytime, anywhere in the region – and they do it on their own time and in their own aircraft.

Joseph DeMarco, who founded this life-altering organization in 2009, is also a pilot volunteer. He is on 24-hour call for patients needing emergency transplants, medically necessary appointments, and pre- and post-op visits.  As if his passionate commitment – both in time and money – isn’t impressive enough, Joseph also spends many hours each week hosting presentations to local hospitals, companies and organizations, so they can spread the word about Wings Flights of Hope. 

Joseph also works tirelessly to raise the approximately $250,000 required annually to cover insurance, fuel and airport costs through fundraising and soliciting donations.

In addition to giving a lift to ill patients who either can’t find a commercial flight in time, don’t have access to a major airport, or aren’t allowed on commercial aircraft because of medical equipment or possible risk of contagion, Wings Flights of Hope flies a patient’s family members and friends at zero cost.

Because of the selfless generosity of Joseph and his fellow volunteer pilots, many ill patients are able to recover, heal, and live long, happy lives – a very priceless gift indeed.

Nominated by: Joseph DeMarco was nominated by Richard P. Schunke Sr., Proprieter, Schunke Insurance Agency, West Seneca, N.Y.