It’s called Hope Air, a national charity that provides free medical flights for Canadians who can’t afford it.
The organization, which started in 1986, has already arranged more than 140,000 free flights to help people travel for medical appointments.
“They are a lifeline really,” Kelowna resident Tara Murphy said. “They have helped us tremendously.”
Murphy and her son Ty used the service in the winter of 2017, when Ty was really sick.
“He lost almost 20 pounds and he just wasn’t eating,” Murphy said.
Ty was seven years old at the time. For two years, doctors couldn’t figure out why the boy had severe swelling in his lips and mouth.
“It was really painful, cause it was cuts all along here,” the now nine-year-old boy said.
Ty was eventually referred to B.C. Children’s Hospital, but getting there proved very difficult for the single mother of two.
“It was winter and we didn’t have winter tires,” Murphy said.
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Airfare for her and Ty, she said, was out of reach.
“Not doable,” she said. “It just wasn’t in the cards for either of us to fly.”
Fortunately, Murphy heard about Hope Air and reached out to the organization.
“I instantly wrote his story, wrote what was going on and I heard back from them immediately because it was an emergency,” she said. “He had an appointment in two weeks and Hope Air just stepped up.”
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It’s those kinds of stories that have prompted a small group of volunteer pilots, including Kelowna’s Dave McElroy, to help raise money for the organization.
“I like to do stuff to help others, to give back, and it combines my passion for flying with giving back,” McElroy said.
On Saturday, McElroy, along with several other pilots, will set off on a 13,000-kilometre fundraising flight through B.C., the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska.
McElroy will fly in his two-seat RV6 aircraft.
The mission is called Give Hope Wings, and its goal is to raise $300,000, which will fund 1,200 free medical flights for Canadians.
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That support that is said to be badly needed in B.C.,where getting to medical appointments can be tough.
“If you live in southern Ontario, you don’t need an airplane to get to Toronto right. But the terrain here and the distances and topography is such that there’s a much bigger need here,” he said.
As for Ty, he’s doing a lot better these days.
His mom credits the Hope Air flight that got him to B.C. Children’s Hospital with the diagnosis they so anxiously were awaiting.
Ty was diagnosed with Orofacial Granulomotosis, a rare chronic inflammatory condition, one they now know how to manage.
“Hope Air changed our lives. It’s definitely changed his,” Murphy said.
Click here for more information about Hope Air.
Click here for more information on the Give Hope Wings Project or if you would like to donate.
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