Fighting cancer became a mission for flight attendant Jane Mitchell in 2015 when her daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer. Onboard a flight last month, she shared her story with a celebrity customer: saxophonist Kenny G, who serenaded passengers in her daughter’s honor in a video that went viral.
Jane showed him photos of last year’s Delta Jet Drag, an annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in which teams from across the airline compete to pull a 167,000-pound jet 20 feet in the fastest time.
“That looks pretty cool,” Kenny G commented. Jane suggested, “You should come to Jet Drag,” to which Kenny G replied, “Maybe I will.”
To Jane’s surprise, he did. At Friday’s Jet Drag in Atlanta, Kenny G suddenly walked up behind Jane, sax in hand. She squealed and beamed. Kenny G posed for photos, helped pull the plane on Jane’s Jet Drag team and performed during the Relay for Life held nearby.
Kenny G’s arrival was one of numerous heartwarming moments as thousands of Delta employees from all over the world descended on the TechOps facility for Jet Drag and Relay For Life, Delta’s biggest American Cancer Society fundraisers of the year.
The two were combined for the first time this year, making for the biggest event yet in honor of Delta’s 15-year partnership with the Society.
For Jane, the day was about honoring her daughter and defeating cancer. Her team raised a whopping $120,000. “This is personal for me,” she said. “I’m on a mission to raise as much as I can for research. That’s a promise I made.”
Robert Cisneros, an Atlanta-based Field Service Manager — In-Flight Service, pulled on a team with his brother in memory of their mother, who was claimed by cancer in 2013.
“Jet Drag just reminds me of fighting for my mom, and of encouraging her to fight. She never gave up, but there were times she didn’t want to get up,” he said. “I would have to pull her out of bed, like I pulled this plane with my brother and my co-workers. She would be very proud of this event.”
Chyrel Bousson, a 32-year employee who works in Cargo Marketing and Communications, lost her husband — himself a 30-year Delta veteran — to colon cancer last year. She and her children wore badges with his photo, and she pulled on the Global Sales Remembers team.
“This is so heartwarming, to see everyone out here fighting against cancer and for each other. We don’t want anyone else to go through what we’ve been through,” Chyrel said.
“Delta has been so good to us. Delta is about family, about sticking together through thick and thin,” she said. “It’s just fantastic.”
Dawn Sauls, a 28-year below-wing employee, has led the Gear Nuts team for the past three years, as part of the Tool Room's many fundraising efforts.
"Our department is big on charity. For the past three years, we've focused on fundraising all year long -- last year we raised $10,000. The Jet Drag is one more charity we decided to put into the mix," she said. "We've had a few people in our department pass away from cancer so this one is particularly important to us."
In all, more than 100 employee teams tested their strength against the Boeing 757. Each team raised at least $1,500, contributing to Delta's goal of raising $2.25 million to fund cancer research, patient service programs and advocacy.
Meanwhile, participants on Relay teams took turns walking throughout the whole eight-hour event in support of the ongoing battle cancer patients face. Delta’s corporate Relay event is the largest relay in the U.S.
As Kenny G played, attendees held candles in silent remembrance of those who have lost the battle with cancer and in support of those still fighting the battle.
Click below for a photo gallery of the event: