Charity raffle buys hope for South Okanagan families

Pair of round-trip tickets to anywhere WestJet flies are being raffled off in co-operation with Downtown Penticton Association for Hope Air.

Maria Carr and her daughter

Maria Carr and her daughter

Two years ago, Maria Carr’s 14-year-old daughter was in rough shape and the Penticton mom had no idea how to get her to a medical specialist in Vancouver.

“She wouldn’t have made the five-hour journey” by vehicle, Carr said. “It was too difficult for her to travel.”

Daughter Kianna had an undiagnosed kidney condition but wasn’t sick enough to require an air ambulance ride, so a commercial flight appeared to be the only option, but a rapidly changing date with the specialist complicated matters.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Carr said.

Finally, a nurse suggested she ask Hope Air for help. The non-profit provides free flights for people like Kianna who need to visit an out-of-town specialist, but have difficulty either arranging, or affording, air travel.

“I literally, when I got home, picked up the phone, told them what was happening and that’s all I had to do,” Carr said.

“It was such a scary time, I just couldn’t deal with everything,” she continued. “They were there, they were organized, and everything was no problem.”

Kianna, now 16, made it to Vancouver, had a biopsy done, got help for her condition and is now recovering her health.

She’s one of hundreds of Penticton residents who have received a flight from Hope Air. In 2012, the non-profit arranged 109 trips from Penticton, and has done another 61 so far this year.

While the Canadian charity does count some private pilots among its volunteers, the majority of flights are provided in co-operation with commercial airlines.

WestJet, however, has gone a step further and donated a pair of round-trip tickets to anywhere it flies that are now being raffled off in co-operation with the Downtown Penticton Association.

The tickets are $10 each or three for $20 and available at the DPA office or at its community market tent each Saturday through August. The winner will be chosen Sept. 2.

“Whoever wins the raffle will basically get a trip to the Caribbean for $10. No additional fees or taxes or anything. It literally is $10,” said Hope Air donor relations officer Anna du Bois.

She hopes the raffle will raise $10,000, enough to purchase about 40 flights, plus increase public awareness about Hope Air itself.

“Unlike some bigger charities, we’re not as well-known, and this a wonderful way of letting people know about us and what we do,” she said.

Across Canada, Hope Air provided 6,091 flights last year, up from 4,579 a year earlier. It’s not an ambulance service and patients must be well enough to fly without medical help. They must also be destined to see a specialist whose work is covered by a provincial health service, and demonstrate a financial need for assistance.

For more information on the service or how to donate, visit www.hopeair.org.