Travellers are quickly running out of time to book their spots in a raffle for a pair of WestJet tickets to anywhere the airline flies.
The Downtown Penticton Association is running the draw in partnership with Hope Air, a national charity that provides free flights for people who need to travel for medical appointments but are unable to afford to go.
Raffle tickets, one for $10 or three for $20, are available at the DPA office or its booth at the farmers’ market. The draw is scheduled for Sept. 2 at noon.
“The DPA is always looking to support the community however we can,” said executive director Kerri Milton. “We thought this was a great opportunity to support those who need help.”
So did WestJet, which donated the tickets and also regularly donates flights to Hope Air, and so does Henry Ilg.
The retired commercial pilot is part of a network of about 130 across Canada who donate their time and aircraft to get patients where they need to go.
He owns a four-seater, single engine Cessna 177 Cardinal and is part owner of a twin-engine, six-seater Piper Seneca, which makes Hope Air the perfect hobby for him.
“I have an airplane or access to an airplane, I enjoy flying and I enjoy using my skills to help other people,” said Ilg, who lives in Richmond.
“By doing flights, we save people time. For example, if I do a Castlegar to Vancouver flight, that saves someone an 11-hour bus trip,” said the Richmond man, who also transports Penticton residents.
His last mission here, about six months ago, saw him deliver a mother, plus her two young children and mother-in-law to an appointment in Vancouver.
“That was actually a bigger load,” said Ilg, who usually has just two passengers.
“I don’t ask what their (medical) condition is,” he added. “If they tell me, they tell me.”
Ilg began volunteering for Hope Air in 2009 and annually flies eight to 10 missions, which are put up for grabs on a pilots’-only web page. In return for his time, the charity pays for half his fuel, then issues a charitable donation receipt for the rest. All told, it works out to about a 75 per cent subsidy.
Proceeds from the Penticton raffle and other fundraisers will help Hope Air reimburse Ilg and other pilots, and purchase commercial flights as necessary. In 2012, the charity arranged 109 trips from Penticton. Across Canada, it provided 6,091 flights, up from 4,579 in 2011.
Hope Air is not an ambulance service and patients must be well enough to fly without medical help. They must also be scheduled to see a specialist who is covered under a provincial health service, and demonstrate a financial need for assistance.
For more information, visit www.hopeair.org.