Community

Free flights for cancer patients

When just a baby, Libby was diagnosed with a rare form of melanoma and needed to get to specialized cancer care at B.C Children’s Hospital, she and her mom got a free flight from Hope Air.

On Tuesday, Libby, now two, and her mom Cheryl were on hand at the second-annual Inside Ride for Hope Air in Kelowna to raise money for a special Hope Air Flights Fund to get kids with cancer to care.

The event was a great success, raising almost $15,000, which will result in 100 flights.

“Free flights close the gap between home and hospital for low income families,” said Hope Air executive director Doug Keller-Hobson, who participated as a rider on the Hope Air team.

“Our mission at Hope Air is to improve access to health care by eliminating the barriers of cost and distance; we do that by providing free flights which reduce time away from school, work and family.”

Cheryl said Hope Air was a relief to her family when Libby needed to access specialized treatment in Vancouver.

“We didn’t know how we’d get to Vancouver for her care: Hope Air helped us out at a very stressful time in our lives,” she said.

Cancer treatment for kids is so specialized that it requires expertise and medical technologies in B.C. that are centralized at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

While cancer treatment is the number one reason why people need a free flight from Hope Air, the airline also provides its free flight services to people of all ages, with all illnesses from all across Canada.

Founded in 1986, Hope Air has provided almost 72,000 flights, with about half of those for children seeking medical attention.

Last year, Hope Air did 4,579 flights across Canada with the Kelowna to Vancouver route the busiest route for each of the last three years.

Patients in need are encouraged to contact the charity to see if they qualify at www.hopeair.ca or call 1-877-346-4673.

Braden Messenger is a volunteer pilot with Hope Air who lives in Kelowna. His wife Dawn works at GoodLife Fitness, where The Inside Ride was held this year.

“I just completed my 25th mission for Hope Air last week,” said Messenger.

“Volunteering for Hope Air is the most satisfying flying I have done in my career: it is so great to know that you are getting people to the care they need.

“One in five Hope Air clients say that without our free flights, they would not be able to get to the care they need.

“And 22 per cent would face drives up to 12 hours or more—each way.”

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