The Anglican Foundation has formed a new partnership with Hope Air to help children and youth in need of medical care fly to the cities where they need to go for treatments.
Foundation executive director Judy Rois said she got the idea while reading a WestJet inflight magazine, which contained a letter from WestJet’s president that mentioned the company’s work with Hope Air, a charity that partners with airlines in Canada to provide low income Canadians who have to travel for medical care with free flights.
Rois said she ripped the page out of the magazine and called Hope Air when she got back to her office.
Hope Air’s executive director Doug Keller-Hobson, who happens to be a member of Toronto’s Grace-on-the-Hill Anglican Church, said that as a part of Hope Air’s strategic growth plan, he had always “looked at faith groups as being a very logical network for us to partner with,” but the foundation was the first religious organization to propose a major partnership. Work with churches has typically been related to helping a specific person in a community, he said.
In this new partnership, the foundation is encouraging individual Anglicans and youth groups, parish choirs, and Anglican Church Women’s groups to raise funds that the Foundation will give to Hope Air to pay for clients’ flights for medical care. Although the cost of travel varies greatly depending on locations and distances, Keller-Hobson said the airlines offer Hope Air deeply discounted rates, so the average cost is $250 for a one-way flight and $500 for a return ticket. He noted, too, that funds can be designated to be used by someone in the local donor community.
Eligibility is based on need, and Keller-Hobson said most of Hope Air’s clients live close to the poverty line of $23,000 to $25,000 gross household income. The other eligibility requirement is that the client has to be travelling for an approved medical appointment that is covered by the provincial health care system, though the travel may be inter-provincial or to the U.S. in some cases.
The Anglican Foundation’s partnership focuses specifically on children in need of care. Rois said that the foundation is also providing one of its Hope teddy bears for every child who travels. “For many kids, some of treatment they have to take can be scary, some of it can be painful…. Having a little bear or something can be very comforting,” said Rois.
She said that the foundation’s reasons for entering the partnership are multifaceted. “It’s mostly for the kids obviously and the health care, but it helps parishes be philanthropic, be generous, be aware of these things,” she said. “It helps us tell the country that the Anglican Church of Canada cares for kids right here in Canada, that we are involved.”
Keller-Hobson said that one of Hope Air’s big challenges is looking for new ways to let people know about the service the charity offers. “We’re not the type that would do great, big public service announcements. We like to be more targeted and more focused and this partnership is one that I think is just terrific because it really gets us right out to the front lines,” he said, noting that priests and people in church communities may know of people in need of this kind of help and word of mouth is one of the top ways their clients hear about Hope Air. “Hopefully, before people have had to make their first journey, they’ve heard about us and call us for help,” he said.
Hope Air has helped Johnathan Roberts travel from Newfoundland to Halifax for surgeries and other treatments over the last two years. Born prematurely with spina-bifida and multiple orthopedic problems, Roberts, now 23, was in need of hip replacement. “When I was trying to figure out how to get to Halifax, before I found out about Hope Air, it was extremely stressful,” he told the Anglican Journal. Problems with his leg forced him to stop work and rely on a disability payment. As part of their fundraising efforts, his family had placed bottles with a poster explaining his situation in local businesses in their community of Tilton. The bottles were stolen before the family could collect them, and Roberts recounts gratefully that his family’s parish church All Saints Anglican Church in Tilton donated $1,000 to help him pay for costs, which also included expenses for a hostel room and food while in Halifax. “If I wouldn’t have went with Hope Air, then I wouldn’t have been able to make these arrangements to go to Halifax,” he said.
The foundation says donations of $250 have already started coming in from several parishes and from Queen’s College in St. John’s Nfld.
For more information, contact the Anglican Foundation at [email protected]