For the Chiefs September 23, 2018, game against the San Francisco 49ers, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and the Chiefs selected Don Sumple, CEO and Executive Director of Angel Flight Central, as the Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion. Prior to kickoff, Sumple received on-field recognition and conducted the ceremonial first pass to Ken Kremer before touring the Chiefs broadcast booth and enjoying the game.
"I am truly humbled to accept this honor on behalf of our volunteer pilots, ground volunteers, board members, donors and our small staff," said Sumple, who took over as CEO of Angel Flight Central in 2009. "These hard-working and dedicated individuals truly 'give hope wings' each and every day. I represented all of them on the field on Sunday."
Following a career in broadcasting, including 11 years with Chiefs partner station 101 the Fox (KCFX), Sumple took over Angel Flight Central after being approached about the position by the organization's incoming president and chairman. Sumple was familiar with Angel Flight Central and loved its mission, so he applied.
"Nine years later, here I am," said Sumple, who views his position as more of a calling than a job. "I think it is important to give back to the Kansas City community because that's what we are called to do. We are called to help our neighbors in need. I have been blessed and it is only right to share those blessings."
Through Angel Flight Central (AFC), Sumple works to provide those in need with vital air travel that they wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. The vast majority of the flights are related to a passenger's need for life-saving medical care, but AFC also conducts humanitarian flights. These trips can include taking kids with special conditions such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, heart disease or severe burns to camps; reuniting a member of the military with his or her family; or transporting disaster relief supplies.
"My mom was a nurse, my wife is a nurse so I have known from an early age how devastating an illness can be on an individual and their family," said Sumple, who notes that AFC finds most of its passengers through referrals. "My most rewarding experiences since I began working with Angel Flight Central are when passengers inform me that they wouldn't have been able to have received their much-needed medical treatment without Angel Flight Central. In many cases the treatment is life-saving."
With only a small staff to coordinate the organization's efforts across 10 states, AFC relies heavily on volunteers, not just for flying passengers, but also for administrative and marketing tasks. And as a nonprofit organization, it also depends on monetary contributions to stay operational.
"Many of the people we serve would not be alive today if it wasn't for the generosity of our donors and our wonderful volunteer pilots who transport them to their respective treatment centers outside of their home areas," said Sumple. "We are always looking for volunteer pilots to 'give hope wings.' But we are also an under-the-radar organization, meaning that there are so many individuals who can use our services but have no idea that we even exist. So it would always be helpful to have more ground volunteers to spread the word."
Since its inception in 1995—with the help of more than 400 volunteer pilots—AFC has flown more than nine million miles and helped transport more than 24,000 passengers. Those interested in volunteering with or contributing to AFC or who know someone who could benefit from the organization's services are encouraged to visit https://angelflightcentral.org/.
"The work that Don and his team at Angel Flight Central are doing has been life-saving for so many in our community," said Christina Lively, Blue KC's Department Vice President of Marketing and Communications. "People like Don are who make our city so incredible and are a main reason why we can take pride in our community. We're proud to honor Don as a Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion."
To nominate a local hero like Don Sumple to be recognized as a Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion, visit chiefs.com/bluekc.