Robert Kraft got the call and didn't hesitate.
Retired astronaut Mark Kelly – a friend of the New England Patriots owner – had a request from his wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
In the wake of the shootings Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the March for Our Lives rally was set to take place Saturday in Washington, D.C., but a group of Parkland students – including some still recovering from gunshot wounds – couldn't afford the trip.
Giffords – herself was the victim of a 2011 shooting that has left most of the right side of her body paralyzed – wondered if Kraft consider lending the team plane to help transport the students.
“When they called and asked, ‘Would you send a plane and help take the wounded kids and their families and kids who couldn't go on a normal plane, because it’s not right?' We didn't hesitate a minute,” Kraft explained Monday afternoon at the NFL’s annual meetings. “Because think, all of you who have kids, think about losing one of your kids. You wake up in the morning and they go to school and don’t come home at night.”
Kraft previously had seen the toll that another school shooting had taken on a town. He owns a box plant in Newtown, Conn., where 20 students and six staff members of Sandy Hook Elementary School were shot and killed in 2012. Some of the plant employees lost family members in that attack. Shortly after, Kraft donated $25,000 to the impacted community.
He viewed helping the Parkland students attend the March for Our Lives rally a worthy cause.
“I just thought this is a way for our organization to be able to reach out to those people who are hurting bad,” Kraft said. “I can’t think of a worse, unnatural thing of losing your child.”
A person with knowledge of the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject, said that the use of the Patriots’ 767 jet for the trip from Florida to D.C. cost between $500,000 and $1 million for the staffing, fuel and meals of the students and their family members.
Kraft finds himself in a unique position because although he’s a lifelong Democrat, he also counts President Trump among his personal friends. He didn't mince words, however, as he expressed his displeasure with the ongoing disputes over gun control and the accompanying political gridlock in addressing the matter.
“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.
He later added, “And 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, and 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.”
Contributing: Jarrett Bell
Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.