Hope Air continuing with its honourable work
By The Vernon Morning Star
May 21, 2013, Vernon, B.C. - Hope Air is Canada’s only nation-wide charity providing free flights to people who cannot afford the cost of an airline ticket to get to specialized medical treatment outside their home communities.
By The Vernon Morning Star
Since 1986, Hope Air has arranged flights for people of all ages from
across Canada, using national and regional airlines and private planes.
Leila Ward of Vernon has been a Hope Air client since
last summer and she is certain that the service has saved her life by
allowing her to go to Vancouver for medical treatment she cannot get
closer to home.
“There is so much compassionate work in Hope Air. I
heard about it from someone at the pool and wondered if I qualified. By a
miracle, I did,” she said.
Ward, an artist, photographer, activist and retired
teacher, goes to Vancouver for treatment for spasmodic dysphonia, a rare
condition that affects the vocal chords so that they tighten and she
can’t breathe. The condition is triggered by some foods, or sometimes by
saliva. The treatment is to have a muscle paralyzed by medical Botox
every three months.
Ward is also waiting for a hip replacement after two
accidents and dealing with that pain which makes driving long distance
difficult. Before she was able to have the Hope Air flights, she was
spending more than $3,000 a year on air fare. She still has to pay for
accommodations and the Botox, which is considered cosmetic and not a
medically necessary treatment.
She recalls her first Hope Air flight clearly.
“We were supposed to leave at 8:30 a.m. The
pilot, Braden Messenger, came from Kelowna. When he did the safety
check, he found that one of the wheels had a leak. He called an aircraft
mechanic from Salmon Arm who came to look at it and drove to
Kelowna to get a part and came back and fixed it and then we were able
to leave,” said Ward. “That’s the kind of people who are at Hope Air.
How lovely is that? I was too excited to be nervous. It was a wonderful
When she went to Vancouver in February, the weather was
too bad to take off and she was booked on a commercial flight to get
“That Hope Air should do this for people absolutely
amazes me. The mercy of it. I don’t know what I would do without it
because I couldn’t get to the treatments. Being able to get to Vancouver
for the treatments is crucial to me to keep breathing. I know there are
other people in the area who also use the service to get the treatment
they need. I don’t know where I would be without it. I spread the word
every chance I get,” said Ward.
Almost half of all Hope Air flights are for children.
About 30 per cent of Hope Air clients would cancel or postpone important
medical care if they could not get a flight from Hope Air. Others have
to make long, uncomfortable trips by car or bus to get appointments.
Hope Air provided more than 6,000 flights in 2012.
Hope Air is supported by donations from foundations and
corporations, as well as from individual donors. Flights are on
commercial scheduled flights or on private planes with pilots who
volunteer their time and their own planes.
Messenger, of Kelowna, received the Distinguished
Volunteer Pilot Spirit of Hope Award in 2012 in recognition of his
valuable service in the air — 25 missions since 2007 — and on the ground
at speaking engagements and fundraising events.
“When Hope Air approached me, I thought it was pretty
amazing and I wanted to get involved,” said Messenger, who has a
commercial pilot’s licence and works in computer technology as program
director at Accelerate Okanagan. He flies his own six-seat Beech Bonanza
for Hope Air.
“About 60 per cent of our clients are 15 and under and
going for follow-up treatments. It would be difficult and expensive for
them if they didn’t get the help. They find the flight in a small plane
exciting and it gives them something else to think and talk about.
Clients of all ages tell us they like the flights and that they are so
appreciative of this service that is there for them,” he said.
“What we want to get across is that the service is
there and Canadians are benefitting from it. All the pilots involved
want to do the same thing — help make people’s lives better by having
the flights there for them when they need it.”
Eligibility is based on financial need for people with a
confirmed, approved medical appointment and a doctor’s confirmation
that the patient is medically fit to fly. For more information, to
request a flight or to refer someone for a flight, complete a Flight
Request form at www.hopeair.ca or call 1-877-346-4673 (HOPE).
To help with the increasing demand for its service,
Hope Air has partnered with Overwaitea Food Group and participating
stores in B.C. Customers can donate their More Rewards points to Hope
Air every time they shop.
Whenever you accumulate 1,000 points or more on your
More Rewards card, you can donate them at the check out. Each 1,000
points represents $1, which the company will match and donate to Hope
Air Mission. Just tell the cashier that you want your points to go to
In the Okanagan, participating stores include Cooper’s
Foods in Winfield, Rutland and Glenmore; Save-on-Foods in Kelowna and
Westbank, and Urban Fare in Kelowna.
Hope Air hopes to raise $10,000 by the end of the year, which will provide 40 extra flights to people in need.