In 1981, Priscilla "Pat" Blum and cofounder Jay Weinberg created the Corporate Angel Network (CAN). CAN is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit charity that arranges free air travel for cancer patients, traveling to and from recognized specialized treatment centers, using the empty seats made available by some 580 participating companies on board their corporate jet aircraft during routine business travel schedules.
As a cancer survivor, and therefore personally experienced with all of the trials and hardships associated with the disease, Pat reached out to a business friend and fellow cancer survivor, Jay Weinberg, with a novel idea and a vision. She hoped to provide many thousands of cancer patients the opportunity to travel to their distant treatment centers on board corporate aircraft at no charge to the patient.
Pat, a GA pilot and Piper Comanche owner who based her airplane at Westchester County airport (HPN), was always amazed at the volume of corporate jets landing and departing with only one or two passengers on board. It prompted her to ask the companies operating these aircraft if they would consider helping a cancer patient fly to his or her treatment center when their airplane and the patient were headed to the same destination on the same day.
She and Jay spent countless hours discussing all of the many facets of their vision of helping cancer patients travel to life saving treatment with no hassle, no crowds, in a dignified and comfortable environment, hosted by people who would care enough to offer their available empty seats at no charge to cancer patients.
Consulting with another HPN-based friend, Leonard Greene, owner and president of Safe Flight Instrument Company, resulted in the launch of their new aviation charity on December 22, 1981. Michael Burnett, an 18-year-old cancer patient, flew on board Leonard's King Air 200 from HPN to Wayne County Airport in Detroit after his treatment at New York's Sloan Kettering.
Located in two small offices provided by Champion Corporation in the company's HPN hangar as its initial headquarters, the fledgling organization continued to knock on corporate flight department doors in its tireless quest to sign up new participants.
In 1982, CAN logged just 23 cancer patient flights. With increasing demand for CAN services, Pat moved the office in 1985 to a larger, more permanent facility. Five short years later a record 650 patient flights for the year were completed. A doubling of the office space at HPN in 1993 helped the dream and vision continue to grow. In 1998, CAN celebrated 10,000 total patient flights with more than 500 participating companies donating their time, aircraft, and crews to the CAN mission.
Pat retired in 2000 at age 80, and her idea and vision continue today-33 years and 46,000 cancer patients later. Her vision of helping bring thousands of cancer patients closer to their cure has been a marvelous success. Today, CAN arranges 225 to 250 patient flights every month, almost 3,000 per year, with 580 corporations participating. Pat's work continues, as does her dream.