FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Dec. 7, 2018) - Eight years ago, the Kraft family and Patriots Foundation introduced Celebrate Volunteerism, a season-long initiative focused on recognizing community volunteers and promoting the importance of giving back to the community through service.
Throughout the 2018 season, the foundation will continue its Celebrate Volunteerism initiative by teaming with nonprofit organizations to educate fans about the need for volunteering, highlighting deserving volunteers from across the region and seeking to inspire Patriots fans to become lifelong volunteers. The foundation will present a weekly "Patriots Difference Maker of the Week" award, which recognizes deserving volunteers who go above and beyond to support their New England communities.
"We originally started the Celebrate Volunteerism initiative as a tribute to my sweetheart, Myra," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "Over the past eight years, it has become the heart and soul of the Patriots Foundation, just like Myra was. We enjoy shining the light on local volunteers that are committed to improving the lives of children and families across the region and we hope that this inspires our fans to get more involved in their communities."
Rodney Flynn from Woburn, Mass. has been selected as a Patriots Difference Maker of the Week for his commitment to Angel Flight of New England (AFNE), a nonprofit organization based at the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Andover that is dedicated to providing free air and ground transportation, so children and adults may access life-saving medical care that is outside of the geographic area.
The organization was founded back in 1996 and since its inception, volunteer pilots have scheduled more than 77,000 free flights across the northeast region, covering nine states including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. They also rely on volunteers to assist with the ground transportation for patients that they refer to as "Earth Angels".
That's where Rodney comes into play. For more than 17 years, he has volunteered as an Earth Angel for AFNE. In this role, Rodney donates his time, gasoline, automobile and compassion to provide ground transportation from airports and hotels to medical facilities throughout the Greater Boston area.
He has become the go-to-guy for the organization. Whenever someone is in need of a ride, Rodney will offer his services free of charge. If someone is stranded and can't get road transportation from a Boston-based airport or medical facility, Rodney will volunteer to drive them. Rodney loves what he does and is guaranteed to greet each patient with a smile.
"Volunteering is something I have been doing my whole life," said Rodney. "I've also teamed up with volunteers in the Woburn community to clean up conservation areas, collect donations for a local food pantry and provide Thanksgiving meals to local families in need. It's something I've always enjoyed doing."
When dropping off an AFNE patient at a doctor's office or hospital, Rodney will wait for the patient to finish their appointment and then drive them back to the airport or hotel. He builds a connection with everyone he serves and many of the patients consider him a part of their extended family. He also refuses to accept any form of compensation, even a gift card for gas.
Each year, he averages 150 Earth Angel missions and over the past 17 years, he has provided transportation to more than 2,500 patients and their families.
"I just live on the idea of paying it forward," said Rodney. "For more than 45 years, I've always helped my neighbors by shoveling their sidewalks and driveways. After the first snow storm last year, I looked outside and saw that my driveway had already been shoveled. It's all about paying it forward."
Fifteen individuals will be named Patriots Difference Makers throughout the season. The outstanding volunteers will be recognized on the Patriots website and in print materials, including Patriots Football Weekly and Patriots GameDay magazine. They will also be honored during a special ceremony at the Patriots final regular season home game against the New York Jets on Sunday, December 30.
Fans are encouraged to nominate a local volunteer for the Patriots Difference Maker of the Week award by visiting www.patriots.com/community.