If you were at the North Peace Regional Airport Tuesday, you may have noticed a cluster of small planes on the tarmac outside.
The planes and their pilots, members of the group Give Hope Wings are touring the country hoping to shed light on the Hope Air program.
“Hope Air is an iconic Canadian charity based in Toronto, founded in 1986,” says Give Hope Wings co-founder Dave McElroy. “Their purpose is very simple – Canada has a great health care system, however, if you live in a very remote area, access to that can be a big, big issue.”
That's where, McElroy says, this free specialized service comes in.
“So, if you live in Fort Nelson, and you have a kid with cancer who needs ten trips to the cancer clinic to, let's say Vancouver, you've got a real problem. Hope Air solves the two problems, problems of distance and cost.”
Volunteer pilots can either fly in and out of remote areas for pick-up and drop-off or plane tickets can be donated by Hope Air.
In some cases, other costs, like accommodations, may also be covered by the program.
The project, though, is not a med-evac.
“We're not an ambulance service,” McElroy clarifies.
“Our role is to get the person to their appointment or treatment for diseases that can't be treated locally.”
A pilot with 55 years of flying experience, he says the project is only possible with individual, group and corporate support.
“The average flight costs about $350. So, for example, a $1000 donation could potentially cover three flights. If we were to reach a million dollars, we'd be able to fund in the area of 3500 flights.”
Last year, to meet the needs of the program, Hope Air had a budget of close to $5-million dollars.
In 2021, the program provided nearly 7,000 travel arrangements.
Prior to the pandemic, and because health care was limited during Covid, that number was closer to 13,000.
With more surgeries now being booked post-pandemic, McElroy fully expects the numbers to return.
“So, if you think about it, that's more than 1000-a-month, and you divide 1000 by 30, you see there's quite a few flights everyday. In fact, there's probably several Hope Air flights in the air as we speak.”
To find out more about the program, McElroy recommends checking out the Hope Air website.