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Running to Help: How a Southwest Customer Helped to Save Another Marathoner’s Mission to Give Back

MLittman Employee Rank
Employee

Oftentimes, our Southwest Airlines Employees and Customers go above and beyond to lend a helping hand. As the airline with Heart, we love hearing stories like the one shared below from former coworkers Angela Klappa and Keith Ricci.

 

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In addition to previously working together, Angela and Keith both planned to run the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon for the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Team. This team has raised millions of dollars for the Ronald McDonald House Charities, an organization that Southwest Airlines is also proud to support.

 

When Keith ran into travel issues getting to the race, Angela quickly answered the call and helped him make it to the marathon on time by gifting him Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® points.

 

Did you know Members of our Rapid Rewards program can donate points to various charities that work hard to make a difference, like RMHC? From providing transportation for first responders to helping a sick child travel on an amazing adventure, donating these points can help make a positive impact.

 

To donate your points, visit swa.is/pointsdonation.

 

 

The following was co-written by Angela Klappa and Keith Ricci

 

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I used to work for a company that participated in the Chicago Marathon every year as a fundraiser for RMHC, and combined to form a 900 person strong RMHC group. Although I left the company, I still run with them to support a great cause. Last year, the group raised $1.4 million dollars for RMHC and I am proud to have been a part of it! All summer long we trained for the marathon and worked on raising money together, which led to us becoming a very tight-knit community.

 

The marathon was in October, and I had booked a flight on another airline to fly in from Dallas on Saturday morning. I woke up at 4 a.m. to get ready for my 6 a.m. flight that would take me to a jam-packed but meaningful weekend. Upon waking up, I found out my flight had been canceled last minute and I would have to book another flight for later that day. I was still going to get to Chicago on time.

 

Then, there were complications with my next flight, and I learned I wouldn’t get into Chicago until 9 a.m. the next morning. This was a bit of an issue considering the marathon started at 8 a.m., meaning I would have to miss the huge race I had been working towards!

 

There weren’t any other flights out of Dallas I could find on my original airline and I felt hopeless and out of options. I sent my race team an email saying I wasn’t going to make it but that I wished them the best of luck and hoped they had a great race.

 

The most amazing thing happened right after: offers began pouring in from my incredibly supportive teammates who were doing everything they could to get me to Chicago for the race. My colleague Angela texted me, saying she had extra reward points and would be happy to let me use them to get me to the race.

 

I felt a little weird about that offer as I’m not used to being the recipient of a generous offer like this one. After realizing how it was such a special event and I shouldn’t turn down a way to get there, I graciously accepted her offer. She transferred her Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® points to me and made my dream of running again possible! I quickly repacked my bag and drove straight to Dallas Love Field, where I made my flight to Midway just in time. I felt so happy that people cared so much to reach out and help me accomplish one of my dreams.

 

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As we started to pull away from the gate, something crazy happened. A Flight Attendant came on the intercom and told us the meaning behind the special paintings on the plane. It turns out that my flight was coincidentally on Southwest’s special Ronald McDonald House aircraft! The doors and the bulkhead were specially painted by kids at Ronald McDonald Houses. This was so inspiring and significant to me—not only was I going to run a marathon to raise money to help these kids but they were able to make my last-minute flight that much more meaningful.

 

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to run this marathon and raise money for these incredibly deserving kids. I’m also grateful that people like Angela are waiting in the wings to help others with their random acts of kindness.

 

Angela:

I started fundraising for RMHC at the Chicago Marathon six years ago after RMHC was there for my niece and family in their time of need. I combined that with my passion for running and funneled those efforts into fundraising for RMHC, where I raised over $60,000 in my first year.

 

I’ve spent the past four years leading Team Aramark, my company team, within the greater Team RMHC at the marathon. We recruit for our team from employees and friends, neighbors, and even on Southwest flights.

 

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It takes a lot physically and mentally to run a marathon, and especially to support a charitable organization while doing so. When I got the message from Keith about his flights being canceled I was initially heartbroken—Keith is extremely philanthropic and has done so much to support the charity. It was incredibly important that he be at the race after all of his hard work.

When he told me what had happened to his flights, I immediately pulled out my laptop and found a flight that would get him to Chicago just in time for the festivities, and offered it to him with my Rapid Rewards® points.

 

I fly on Southwest nearly every week for work, which means I have the ability to use my extra Rapid Rewards® points to help those in need. Although initially wary, Keith accepted my offer of getting him a flight and next thing I knew he was in Chicago with us. Keith and the team had a great time on marathon day and he ran a great race. With Keith’s help the team raised over $1.4 million dollars to support the Ronald McDonald House Charities in this incredibly successful and fulfilling year.

 

 

At Southwest Airlines, we’re committed to connecting People to what’s important in their lives. We were glad to help connect Angela and Keith to this great cause!