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B.C. cancer travel charity says it has been left out of provincial funding

Click to play video: 'Volunteer cancer treatment flight group questions provincial funding'
Volunteer cancer treatment flight group questions provincial funding
A B.C. volunteer organization that flies cancer patients from Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast to their treatments in Vancouver and Victoria is asking why it's not getting any government funding, when a Toronto-based company that does the same thing in B.C. gets millions. Kristen Robinson reports – Mar 20, 2024

A B.C. charity that flies cancer patients to their treatments free of charge is calling for provincial funding.

Since 2002, Angel Flight of British Columbia has been transporting patients from Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast to appointments in Vancouver and Victoria.

Volunteer chief pilot Ted Krasowski told Global News he’s logged about 100 flights in the last 15 years, and does it for a chance to fly and because he enjoys helping others.

Click to play video: 'B.C. expanding funding for cancer treatment travel'
B.C. expanding funding for cancer treatment travel

“You meet some interesting people as well, maybe put a smile on somebody’s face. Flying the little kids is always interesting because they are so enthusiastic.

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“If you haven’t seen Vancouver Island from 2,500 feet I think you might want to try that because it’s spectacular.”

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The program is operated by volunteer pilots who donate their planes and time, but relies on cash donations to cover fuel costs.

After the province announced a $10-million grant to Canadian charity Hope Air to help cover cancer travel and accommodations, the group’s president and CEO wrote to the premier and health minister asking for support for his group.

He said his request was turned down.

“I just felt that they were supporting Hope Air, which do a lot of good things, and they are Toronto-based, but not supporting Angel Flight which is very local,” Jeffrey Morris said.

“I wasn’t asking for anywhere near the $10 million they want, but half a per cent of that a year would be admirable to cover my fuel costs.”

Morris said the organization has a committed group of donors, but lacks financial stability. The quest to raise money, he added, takes up time that could be better spent growing the organization.

Click to play video: 'B.C. announces more funding for cancer patients’ travel expenses'
B.C. announces more funding for cancer patients’ travel expenses

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix told Global News that while Angel Flight’s work is admirable, the province had to make a choice about where to direct its cancer travel funding.

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Along with the funding for Hope Air, the B.C. program also included $10 million for the Canadian Cancer Society, and covers ground and air travel, food and accommodation both for patients and their families province-wide, Dix said.

That funding has quadrupled the size of B.C.’s cancer travel and increased its accommodation program by a factor of 12, Dix said.

“That’s where the $20 million we invested in this area went. Most people would agree the Canadian Cancer Society and Hope Air, those are good sources,” he said.

“In the first three months of putting that program in place, we have increased service in some service categories of 1,200 per cent.”

Morris said a fraction of the funding given to Angel Flight would allow him to “go to bed at night knowing we are financially secure,” and that he doesn’t understand why the province can’t help both groups.

“I don’t begrudge Hope Air,” he said.

“I am concerned that the B.C. government doesn’t seem to want to support a local charity doing a similar thing.”

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