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In an epic, multi-aircraft flying expedition, 20 Canadian pilots flew from the West to East coasts of Canada to raise funds and awareness for Hope Air to help Canadians in need get to vital medical care appointments.
Hope Air, is Canada’s only national charity that provides travel and accommodation to patients who must travel long distances to reach life-saving medical care.
Spearheaded by two B.C. pilots, Chief Pilot Dave McElroy, Expedition Captain Steven Drinkwater and Expedition Pilots Lee Arsenault and Marilyn Staig, led the Give Hope Wings journey from June 6-24, with a goal of raising $1 million.
To date, the team of Give Hope Wings pilots have raised over $525,000 during their journey, a number that continues to grow with their fundraising efforts throughout the month of August.
Their dedication, time and passion for flying and fundraising made this expedition noteworthy for years to come.
“As a veteran pilot, I know better than most how fortunate we Canadians are to have such a vast and diverse geography,” McElroy says. As a Kelowna-based pilot, McElroy first learned to fly in B.C., in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.
It is befitting that the expedition’s kick-off location was Kelowna, B.C on June 6. McElroy continues, “For some, access to medical care is limited."
People living in rural or remote areas have physical and financial barriers to the specialized medical care available in city centres.”
McElroy was accompanied through the entire coast-to-coast journey by two long-standing volunteer pilots with Hope Air, Steve Drinkwater and Basie Spies.
The three pilots committed to three weeks of travel, from kick-off to their last stop in Montreal on June 24, along with several other pilots who joined the expedition for various legs, segments, or stages.
“I am always looking for ways that pilots can give back to those in need.
This is when I discovered Hope Air” says Steve Drinkwater, a proud member of the Canadian aviation community and B.C. resident, Drinkwater feels he has a keen ability to support and facilitate access to medical care for those who need it most.
He continues, “I understand the unique challenges that Canadians living far from urban centres have in accessing specialized medical care.”
Similar sentiments are echoed by supporting pilot, Basie Spies, who joined Drinkwater and McElroy on the full three-week expedition.
After 26 years as a physician, Spies turned his attention to flying for a great cause. He relates, “In some ways, flying is very similar to surgery. Nothing is ever routine, and you are faced with new challenges each time.”
Lee and Marilyn Arsenault were pivotal in the planning and organization of the Give Hope Wings coast-to-coast expedition.
As volunteers with Hope Air since 2016, the couple were eager to serve on the committee, planning and directing the other pilots as well as ground logistics, along with McElroy, Drinkwater, and Spies.
Joining Dave, Steve, Basie, Lee and Marilyn from Western Canada; pilots Kyle Jacques, Rupert Robin, Paul LeBlanc, David Lamb, Roelof Dercksen, Gord Murphy, Harold Line, and Andreas Thomsen-Jung.
Expedition pilots from Eastern Canada; Ed Johnston, Mark Verdun, Hilary Ottley, Logan Daly-Doersam, Jamie McCague, Eric Lamontagne, and Patrick Remy and from Central Canada: Jamie McCague, Ed Johnston, Logan Daly Doersam, and Mike Gamble.
Amid a broad range of good to dangerous weather conditions, technical challenges, and various delays, these pilots made it their mission to succeed in the expedition, and it allowed them to do what they love most while making a sizeable impact on communities and individual patients in remote parts of Canada.
Hope Air thanks all twenty-two pilots who joined the expedition to help save the lives of Canadians in need of getting to vital medical care.