Hope Air headed to Prince Albert as part of Give Hope Wings Prairie Expedition

The Hope Air pilots, patients, and staff pose for a photo prior to the start of the Give Hope Wings Western Expedition. Pilots from the Prairie Expedition will touch down in Prince Albert on Tuesday, June 20. -- Hope Air/Facebook

Two pilots from Hope Air will touch down in Prince Albert on Tuesday to raise funds for patients who need medical care far from home.

Pilots and air crews are traveling across three Canadian routes as part of the sixth annual Give Hope Wings expedition. The goal is to raise money for medical patients in financial need who require travel support such as flights, accommodations, and meal vouchers.

“Everyone deserves access to healthcare,” Give Hope Wings expedition captain Doug McNair said in a press release. “For those in need, Hope Air can help cover travel and other expenses beyond what their provincial plans pay for. Raising awareness and funds for Hope Air is rewarding as it is a worthy cause.”

Hope Air pilots will touch down in La Ronge around noon Tuesday as part of their public awareness campaign. Following a short program and tour, the planes will leave for Prince Albert, with an estimated arrival time of between 3:30 and 4 p.m., and a program scheduled to run from 4:30 to 5:30.

The three expeditions aim to raise $600,000 in donations for patients in financial need. McNair said he’s grateful for everyone who comes out and supports them.

“Our passionate community of pilots, volunteers, sponsors, and donors ensure that Hope Air will deliver on the promise of timely and equitable access to healthcare for all,” he said.

The Prairie Expedition is the charity’s final expedition of 2023. The Eastern one ran from June 5-10, while the Western won ran from June 10-18.

Hope Air exists to support patients who need to travel for non-emergency cases. Medical emergency transport is provided by Sask. Air Ambulance and STARS Helicopter, but patients who need non-emergency medical procedures often have to cover their own costs.

McNair said northern residents frequently use the service if they need to see a specialist or receive reoccurring treatment. Hope Air also provides transportation for patients who have been discharged from hospital following an emergency, but still need help getting back home.

“Given our small population, Saskatchewan does not have as many specialists within the province, and patients are sometimes referred out of province to places like Edmonton, Calgary, and even Toronto,” reads a Hope Air statement. “At present, SHA says Saskatchewan does not have a population large enough to offer lung, heart, pediatric cardiac surgery etc. within the province. While the province pays for the procedure, the patient is responsible for their own travel and accommodation costs.”

Hip and knee surgeries are also common reasons patients require assistance from Hope Air.