Amazon has been criticized in the past for not doing enough in terms of philanthropy. But it’s going to be tough to miss its latest charitable push.
During an event Tuesday at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, Amazon raised its philanthropic profile by bestowing financial gifts on two institutions working toward better awareness of childhood cancer. The tech giant also parked a Boeing 767 Prime Air cargo jet, freshly painted in support of the cause, behind the museum near Boeing Field.
The plane — one of 35 767s in its fleet — featured a large gold ribbon, the international symbol for childhood cancer, along with the words “Go Gold … because kids can’t fight cancer alone.” The other side of the aircraft featured “Prime Air” in gold lettering, and the tail also had a golden Amazon smile logo.
Sarah Rhoads, the former Navy F-18 fighter pilot who is now director of Amazon Air, announced that the company was giving $10,000 worth of STEM toys to Seattle Children’s Hospital.
But on a day when Amazon reached rarefied air itself — as its market cap passed $1 trillion for the first time — GeekWire asked Rhoads whether Amazon could be doing much more on behalf of the kids in attendance and those elsewhere who are impacted by cancer. Or in any of its philanthropic pursuits.
“I think this is just another platform for us to give back to our communities, to our customers,” Rhoads said. “For an event like today it is truly important to us to raise awareness for childhood cancer. We have a number of employees and customers whose families have been impacted by the horrible disease and this is just a small way of us being able to leverage our platform like this, fly around the country and raise awareness.”
She then shared that Amazon had also made a donation in the amount of $250,000 to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, which was not publicly announced. And the company will repeat its $10,000 gifts at as many as 10 children’s hospitals across the country this month.
These efforts come on the heels of initiatives including a $33 million donation earlier this year by CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, to fund scholarships for Dreamers, as well as a $35 million contribution by the Bezos family last year to Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The company is also a high-profile supporter of the Mary’s Place shelter for homeless families and the non-profit FareStart restaurants on its Seattle campus, among other charitable initiatives.
“We continue to do things for our communities both locally and on the national level as well,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads said the “Go Gold” plane will make deliveries across the U.S. during the month of September, with many of the boxes inside featuring “Amazon Goes Gold” packaging. The intent is shed light on the gap in research funding between adult and childhood cancers. At Tuesday’s event, Amazon handed out a stack of boxes to the kids, with STEM-related toys inside each box.
Tiffany Bell-Alanis and Crystal Aubin traveled to Seattle from Eugene, Ore., and Portland with their kids. They were representing the Orange Ribbon Foundation, which partners with ACCO to create comfort baskets for families as they endure long hospital stays.
Bell-Alanis’ daughter Yvonne came up with the idea in June 2017 and the non-profit became a reality in the state of Oregon this summer, just a few months after Yvonne died of acute myeloid leukemia at the age of 16.
After Rhoads addressed the crowd, kids followed the ex-pilot around the airplane, staring up at the huge engines and wings overhead. Some were hoisted by their parents so they could feel the underside of the fuselage.
Ruth Hoffman, executive director of the national office of ACCO, thanked Amazon and its employees and representatives.
“I can’t stop but think that there’s too many kids that are going to be watching this plane from the heavens,” Hoffman said. “Together we will go gold, because kids truly can’t fight cancer alone.”