This emergency pilot is keeping the ‘humanity in healthcare’ with toys for kids

As a Life Flight Network helicopter pilot, Olaf Holm meets families and children who are many times experiencing the worst day of their life. 

“As a father and grandparent, I just want them to feel better. I want to take away some of the pain,” said Holm, who, after a 30-year career in the military, became a helicopter pilot for Life Flight Network. Life Flight Network, headquartered in Aurora, OR is a not-for-profit critical care transport company providing helicopter, fixed-wing, and ground emergency transport services. The company has been saving lives by delivering rapid response, ICU-level care to patients in Oregon since 1978.  

Making a big difference with simple kindness

Holm’s main responsibility is to save lives. By safely transporting critically ill or injured patients — whether infants, children or adults— to healthcare facilities across the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West, he ensures they get access to lifesaving definitive care as quickly as possible. After seeing the distress in some of his youngest patients as he prepared them for transport, Olaf had an idea. He began purchasing and giving away his namesake dolls of the jolly snowman from the popular Disney film Frozen as a way of introducing himself and to create a personal connection.  

“Nobody knew my name until Frozen came out…Olaf is a goofy, warm character,” he laughed. 

The first patient to receive an Olaf doll was a five-year-old girl with autism in Lewiston, ID, who was terrified after learning she had to be transported by helicopter.  

“As soon as she saw the doll, the terror left her eyes, and she began to settle. She calmed down and smiled,” Holm recalled. “How do you put a dollar amount on that?” 

After seeing the soothing effect the dolls had on so many of his patients, Olaf contacted Ty, the toy manufacturer and tried to place a bulk order of dolls over the phone. Instead, they sent Holm a surprise free-of-charge.  

“Next thing I knew, I had six huge boxes of 120 Olafs each!” he recalled.  

It’s taken Holm nearly two years to give away all his Olaf dolls.

A team of life-saving professionals who care

“Olaf is such a great example of our company values, especially the compassionate and empathetic healthcare piece,” said Natalie Hannah, Life Flight Network’s public relations specialist who has been working at the company for over eight years. 

Holm is one of many life-saving professionals at Life Flight Network, the fourth-largest air medical provider in the country. They provide an essential service, especially in areas like rural Oregon, where air medical transport is a lifeline for residents needing access to specialty healthcare.  

“We were one of the first air medical programs in the nation,” explained Hannah. “Unfortunately, before we existed, many patients died waiting for help that couldn’t get there quickly enough. Our entry into the industry and region immediately had a huge impact, and we’ve grown exponentially since that time.” Over the last 45 years, Life Flight Network has grown to 28 locations and over 900 employees, supporting the healthcare needs of nearly 15 million people across Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. 

As a not-for-profit, Life Flight Network prioritizes patients, families, and communities above their bottom line. There are many ways to support Life Flight Network’s mission and generous caregivers like Olaf, including purchasing a Life Flight Network membership, donating to their foundation or attending foundation events like the upcoming golf tournament at Langdon Farms. For a nominal annual fee, membership provides financial peace-of-mind for covered families, eliminating costs associated with transport. Membership dues and donations to the foundation are applied directly to the organization’s mission services, used to pay for things like state-of-the-art equipment, advanced training for crews, and to bolster their generous financial assistance program for patients.  

Not only is Life Flight Network a critical resource for those experiencing a medical emergency, it’s also a company that lives its values by placing a premium on empathy, compassion, and kindness, as Hannah said. “It’s so, so important to us that we keep humanity in the healthcare that we provide.”

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