The 2019 expedition crew of Give Hope Wings on June 15 is scheduled to begin a three-week aviation adventure with the goal of funding 1,000 flights for patients, often based in rural communities, who must travel far from home for medical care. Hope Air, the organization behind Give Hope Wings, has arranged more than 142,000 free healthcare flights, since 1986.
This year’s 13,000-km fundraising journey, called The Northwest Expedition, will begin from Pitt Meadows Airport (YPK), located on the banks of the Fraser River, about a 45-minute drive east from Vancouver. Led by expedition chief pilot Dave McElroy, the 2019 Give Hope Wings route includes flying in remote areas of British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, and circumnavigating Alaska.
Pilots Anna Rusinowski and Annamarie van der Meijden are joining the expedition as recipients of the Give Hope Wings Adventure Award. Rusinowski, who plans to share parts of her adventure with WINGS online and print, recently enrolled in the Commercial Pilot program at Genesis Flight College in hopes of becoming a flight instructor. She has been a member of The Ninety-Nines since 2016 and currently serves as a director of the Northern Lights Aero Foundation.
The volunteer flight crew of the 2019 expedition also includes O’Brian Blackall, Alexis Thind and Rani Tolton. Thind explains she was inspired to join the expedition after witnessing families struggle with the medical-care costs during her father’s 14-month battle with terminal cancer. He was a former RCAF CF-5 fighter pilot and 787 captain with Air Canada.
“Before my dad passed, I made a promise to him that I would strive to be a daughter and pilot that would make him proud,” said Thind. “Give Hope Wings, combines my passion for aviation with my desire to improve the lives of other families faced with medical hardships.”
Last year’s edition of Give Hope Wings, America’s Expedition, involved a nine-week mission circumnavigating South America, which raised enough funds for 2,000 flights. Hope Air explains each flight helps a family facing an illness focus on health instead of travel costs.
More information about The Northwest Expedition, its crew, and donations can be found at givehopewings.ca