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Organization gives ‘hope’ to those that need to reach essential healthcare services

Community ProfileOrganization gives ‘hope’ to those that need to reach essential healthcare services

For close to 40 years, Hope Air has been helping Canadians access vital healthcare services they need through various travel services and arrangements.

Although Hope Air is based in Toronto, the organization has had an enduring effect on many in Brantford and the County of Brant including Ed Johnston, who is the current President of the Brantford Flight Center.

Pictured here are some of the Hope Air team at the ‘Thank-you BBQ’ in Brantford, Ontario in October 2023. Photo courtesy Hope Air.

Johnston, who has been part of Hope Air’s Pilot Review Committee which recruits volunteer pilots for several years, has also made numerous flights to help patients get to appointments, treatments, or surgeries, often from remote locations that are not close to major medical centers including those in Hamilton, Ottawa and Toronto.  

“When you fly for Hope Air, you’re bringing in someone that needs hospital care. Every situation could be related to a challenge of distance, a financial challenge, or both,” explained Johnston. “I brought an 86-year-old man in from a small town outside Kapuskasing and he required major surgery in Toronto. I’ve also helped many others including a family from Halifax who had a baby that needed surgery [which] was offered in Toronto [and] they couldn’t afford [the travel and expenses]. …I helped them get there [and] we got them from the airport to a hotel, paid for their hotel, [and] got them food. It’s part of that whole patient experience [and trying to make it] as easy for them as possible.”

Pictured here are several of the Hope Air leadership team with Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis who himself had a family member benefit from the organization’s essential service. Photo courtesy Hope Air.

However, as noted, Hope Air does more than simply accommodate people by providing flights. They provide multi-faceted travel arrangements, hitting just shy of 25,000 of them in 2023. These travel arrangements included 9,411 flights, 7,494 hotel room bookings (staying overnight as part of their care), 5,230 meals, and over 2,000 taxi/uber rides to and from the airport and to the hospital and back.

Overall, the organization has completed over 162,000 travel arrangements since 1986.

Here is a group shot of the Hope Air team. Last year, Hope Air completed close to 25,000 travel arrangements which included over 9,400 flights. Photo courtesy Hope Air.

However, as Johnston explains, many of the volunteer pilots have become key to the success of the organization across multiple areas.

“Every pilot becomes a fundraiser and they can do their [own] initiatives. We then [come together] and [start these] new initiatives as a group. So that’s where we started to talk about barbecues. We had one in Chatham and one in Brantford in 2023. We share resources and we visit [and] fly to each other’s airports so we can support each other accordingly,” said Johnston. “Historically [we’ve] had maybe a pilot from Brantford and…now there’s four. We also have half a dozen that are not necessarily volunteer pilots, but they also like flying for fundraising. So, there’s a lot of good teamwork happening in Brantford and part of it is awareness and promotion.”

Johnston has also been part of various other initiatives through Hope Air to raise awareness.

“In recent years I have been involved in the ‘Give Hope Wings’ expedition…Last year I was a co-leader of the expedition [as well as this year.] We are going to have a major event in Charlottetown this year. Then we’re doing five provinces…and then fly home from there,” he said. “We’re hoping to have about 15 to 17 pilots join us and we’re already at 10 registered; so, we’re off to a good start.”

Ed Johnston earned his private license in 1976 and has garnered close to 30 years of flying experience. He has utilized his experience to help bring many people to their destinations for health services including surgeries. Photo courtesy Hope Air.

Nevertheless, Hope Air continues to leave an indelible mark on many people and families across communities that they have helped throughout the years by providing these essential travel arrangement services.  

“Jon Collins, who is Hope Air’s Chief Development Officer, spoke at the Brantford barbecue and told a story of his child needing care. Mayor Kevin Davis also spoke about the importance of Hope Air, relating to a [family] care matter,” Johnston continued. “But each of us has our own real-life experiences where we understand the need. And the fact that there are still a lot of unmet needs in Canada reinforces the [necessity] for what we continue to do.”

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