Hope Air

Kelowna pilot Dave McElroy, right, and other members of the Give Hope Wings expedition prepare to take off Monday from Kelowna's airport in support of Hope Air.

Volunteer pilots on a cross-Canada mission to raise money to help families receive medical treatment in distant cities took off from Kelowna on Monday.

The ‘Give Hope Wings’ expedition involves about 20 pilots flying their personal aircraft along a 5,000 nautical mile route across the country.

It’s the fifth time such a long-range expedition has been undertaken, including a previous one that saw pilots circumnavigate South America.

The four previous expeditions in support of Hope Air have raised $1.3 million, enough money to provide more than 5,200 flights to people in financial need, who mainly live in small or isolated communities, to travel safely and quickly to medical treatment they need in large cities.

The goal for this year’s expedition is $1 million, with almost half of that already having been raised by donations from corporate partners and energetic fundraising engaged in by the volunteer pilots themselves.

“Kelowna has always been a strong centre of support for Hope Air,” Jon Collins, the non-profit’s chief development officer, said Monday in an interview.

Kelowna pilot Dave McElroy conceived the first Give Hope Wings expedition in 2018. Along with two other pilots, he will fly the full expedition route, with others joining for one or several of the daily segments.

The initial part of the expedition route takes the pilots to the northern B.C. communities of Prince George, Fort Nelson, and Fort St. John, where many people have used the services of Hope Air to get to medical treatment in places like Edmonton and Vancouver.

Expedition pilots will reach St. John’s, NL on June 18.

To donate, see givehopewings.ca