ORLANDO — The request came in from Mark Kelly, the former astronaut who is married to former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Robert Kraft didn’t hesitate making it happen.
Several victims of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., wanted to travel to Washington, D.C., this past weekend for the March For Our Lives, but because of their injuries, they couldn’t fly commercially.
So the Patriots owner sent the team’s Boeing 767 to Parkland to personally transport anyone who wanted to attend.
“I just thought this was a way for our organization to be able to reach out to these people who were hurting bad,” Kraft said Monday at the NFL owners meetings. “I can’t think of a worse, unnatural thing than losing a child. To think of little kids going to school and seeing bullets, in America, go over their head. Something’s not right, and we’ve got to fix it.
“And congratulations to these kids for trying to get the attention of this country focused on it.”
The passengers each had a card from Kraft waiting for them at their seats. On it was a quote from Margaret Mead: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
The bottom half of the card had a message from Kraft:
“On behalf of the New England Patriots organization, I want to express our support as you travel to Washington for this weekend’s March for Our Lives. In the wake of incredible tragedy we have hurt for you, mourned with you and been inspired by you. It is an honor for us to now partner with you as you push for progress.
“Your community is stirring our country towards a better future. That is the true mark of a patriot. Thank you for your leadership and inspiration. Best wishes as you prepare for takeoff on your journey.”
The card was signed “Robert K. Kraft,” with the tag line, “We are all Patriots.”
Kraft also expressed disappointment with the current political situation in Washington — a noteworthy opinion given that Kraft has spoken openly of his friendship with Donald Trump and has met with the president several times since Trump took office.
“I have a big problem with what’s going on in Washington, and the divisiveness and no one’s listening to one another,” Kraft said. “I hope our friends in Washington are smart enough to figure out a way to listen to one another and do something that can be positive.”
Kraft is friends with Kelly and Giffords, and he remains dismayed at the gun violence that turned Giffords’s world upside-down. Giffords was shot in the head at a public appearance in 2011, and resigned her congressional seat in 2012 to focus on her recovery.
“I was thinking how sick is it, that a woman who is donating her life to public service and then is injured in a way that’s permanent by something that is so unfortunate and cuckoo,” Kraft said.
“I think how she has been slowed down a little in public service for the country — that’s nuts. So we have to have empathy and a sense of concern for all points of view for all people and be good listeners, and I thought this [lending the plane] in a small way allowed us to do that.”