Cancer survivor, pilot-in-training takes to sky to help pets across Kansas

SALINA, Kan. (KWCH) A flight student at K-State Polytechnic in Salina uses his skills to help pets across Kansas. Brandon Stevens is a volunteer for Pilots N' Paws, a program that transports animals for medical sheltering and adoption purposes.

Stevens knew he wanted to become a pilot since the first time he stepped onto an airplane.

"I stepped into an aircraft for the first time and just fell in love with it instantly," Stevens says.

But his dream took a back seat when Stevens received a testicular-cancer diagnosis, right after graduating from high school.

"I had surgery and then that wasn't enough, so I had chemotherapy," he says. "That was a scary moment for me because you always hear bad things about chemotherapy.

The diagnosis and treatments that followed slowed Stevens down, but he didn't give up. Today, cancer free, he's a junior at K-State Polytechnic, working toward a commercial pilot's license. He still thinks about his battle with cancer and those who helped him through his fight.

"They always brought in therapy dogs and different types of animals," he says. "The therapy dogs definitely helped me."

When one of Stevens' professors told him about Pilots N' Paws, he knew he had to volunteer for the program.

"You get an email from people across the state saying, 'this pet needs shipped for medical reasons,' or for various other reasons," Stevens says.

He flies to pick up the animals and delivers them to their destinations.

"It's such a rewarding experience," Stevens says.

He gets to log those flight hours, but the aircraft rental and gas for the trips is all out of pocket. Stevens says making a difference while doing what he loves is what his participation in Pilots N' Paws is all about.

"it's the love of it that keeps me going every day," he says.