Pilots for Patients, Louisiana, nonprofit - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

"Pilots for Patients" reaches 1500th mission

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MONROE, LA. (KNOE 8 News) - West Monroe couple Darlene and Joseph McKenzie have been married for 19 years now and have three kids.

But they also have a heavy burden.

Joseph suffers from brain cancer, glioblastoma, which could be fatal without treatment.

The treatment he needs requires three trips a month to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

"It costs us about $250 each trip when we go and that adds up," Darlene said.

But on Thursday they didn't need to drive.

They were the 1500th patient of the local nonprofit, "Pilots for Patients," giving free flights to people needing out-of-town care.

It started with one Rayville woman back in 2008.

"If she didn't get to MD Anderson, she was going to die, and called us and we said 'Well, we're not ready to go!' She says 'I've got to go to MD Anderson.' We took her," said one director of "Pilots for Patients," H.M. Butler.

But the McKenzies' volunteer pilot, Mark Robertson, couldn't land in Monroe Thursday morning with all of the fog, so he landed in Ruston and the McKenzies were driven there.

"You can tell that it helps them and it encourages them," Robertson said. "When you can hook up a hobby with serving other people, that's a double win."

These planes don't just provide the freedom of the skies.

They provide freedom for the patients.

For the McKenzies, it's financial freedom.

"You start to wonder if there's going to be enough money to make it throughout the month and everything becomes about a dollar sign," said Darlene.

And with that freedom, these pilots carried this milestone and the McKenzies through the open skies.

The nonprofit said they are needing more and more pilots to give their time.

To find out the requirements to volunteer your flight expertise or to find a ride from the pilots, you can call (318) 322-5112.

You can also look them up on pilotsforpatients.org.

You can find them on Facebook for all fundraising efforts: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Pilots-for-Patients/162757247076796?fref=ts

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