Delta Air Lines

When a family arrives at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, they take solace in the fact that they do not have to worry about the cost of treatment for their sick child.

And thanks to Delta Air Lines' partnership with St. Jude, the hospital will be able to retain more of the funds it raises for use in research and treatment of deadly childhood diseases instead of using them to cover the costs of flying patients and families to the hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that research is the primary catalyst for finding cures to diseases that have plagued our society for quite some time," said Scarlet Pressley-Brown, director of external affairs and community relations and vice president of the Delta Air Lines Foundation.

Under the partnership, Delta Air Lines will be designated the premier travel partner of St. Jude and will provide the hospital with deep discounts that St. Jude will use as it books flights for families coming to Memphis for treatment. By saving money on the flights, St. Jude will have additional funds to earmark for other programs such as research and treatment.

"We support St. Jude because we want them to be able to continue this research and to allocate funds toward that," Pressley-Brown said. "We feel like we are helping to cushion those finances and allow the hospital to continue to do the research that is so important and so vital."

The partnership originated with Northwest Airlines, which was acquired by Delta Air Lines in October 2008. Delta could have chosen to opt out of the partnership with St. Jude, but Delta never had any intention of negating such an important partnership, according to Pressley-Brown.

"We are very excited to welcome Delta Air Lines into the St. Jude family of corporate partners," said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., chief executive officer of ALSAC, the fundraising organization of St. Jude.

As part of the process of reviewing the Northwest Airlines partnerships, Pressley-Brown and other executives from Delta visited the hospital, getting a firsthand look at the research being done and seeing the impact it is making on families with children battling life-threatening diseases.

And while the visit was just a formality for Delta, Pressley-Brown said, what she and her fellow Delta executives saw and experienced during their tour reinforced the importance of maintaining the partnership with St. Jude.

"My first impression was that St. Jude is a godsend," Pressley-Brown said. The Delta officials spoke with families, doctors and researchers, toured some of the research labs and were introduced to the hospital's bench-to-bedside strategy—creating an environment conducive to quickly translating research findings into treatment programs.
Now as the premier travel partner of St. Jude, Delta's responsibility is two-fold: helping to bolster the funds for research and being that first step for patients to begin their treatment by flying families to Memphis. It is a role the company accepts with great pride.

"We feel as if we are change agents," Pressley-Brown said. "We are helping to relieve some of the stress and undue worry for the parents. It is just an incredible burden lifted off their shoulders."

Now with the continuation of the partnership, Delta is hoping to expand how it can help St. Jude by encouraging local and traveling employees such as flight attendants and gate agents to volunteer at the hospital. Delta is also looking forward to being a part of the 50th anniversary celebration of St. Jude in 2012.

"Delta's commitment to help offset the costs of travel for patients will help us make the funds we raise go a long way toward continuing the research needed to find the cures," Shadyac said. "Getting the patients here is an important part of the process, but anytime we can direct more money to the research and treatment programs, the better it is for the children."


August 2010