Published on: 11/10/2010 3:07:21 PM Print | Font Sizes:  Normal Text Large Text

Bearskin Airlines receives philanthropy award

By: Northern Ontario Business staff

Bearskin Airlines' efforts to offer free medical-related flights for the needy have earned it national recognition.
Bearskin Airlines' efforts to offer free medical-related flights for the needy have earned it national recognition.

A national charity has recognized Bearskin Airlines for its flights of mercy.

Hope Air has presented its first-ever Outstanding Philanthropist Award to Bearskin Airlines of Thunder Bay and Sioux Lookout for coming to the aid of Canadians in need. The regional carrier has assisted the organization in arranging free flights for Canadians, at or below the poverty line, who must get to specialized health care far from their home communities.

Bearskin Airlines president Harvey Friesen accepted the award at the annual meeting of the Air Transportation Association of Canada in Vancouver on Nov. 8. The award was presented by Doug Keller-Hobson, executive director of Hope Air.

Hope Air is a national charity that provides flights to people in financial need to get to specialized health care in large cities through their Commercial Airline Donation Program, using seats donated by Canada’s leading national and regional airlines, and through their Volunteer Pilot Program.

In a Nov. 10 release, the Toronto-based charity said Bearskin Airlines has been a valuable Hope Air partner since 1988 in getting thousands of Canadians to the medical care they need. This includes people like Seth Thomas, who was just 11 months old when he was diagnosed with profound hearing loss. Thomas and his family live in northwestern Ontario, a 26-hour drive from the specialized health care in Toronto he needed if he was ever to hear or learn to speak normally.

Bearskin Airlines contributed the flights that got Thomas and his mom to Thunder Bay and on his way to Toronto. The carrier has provided 1,574 flights since 2000, including 169 flights so far this year.

“It is worth noting that the flights provided by Bearskin Airlines to Hope Air clients are not last-minute availabilities,” said Keller-Hobson in a statement. “For our clients’ purposes, these flights are often booked over a month in advance, which means Bearskin Airlines is donating seats they would otherwise generate revenue from. This is an outstanding charitable contribution that has helped thousands of Canadians and alleviated much financial, emotional and physical stress.”

Hope Air clients have used Bearskin to reach specialized medical care related to orthopedics, which is generally for children, vision-related issues and neurological conditions.

“At Bearskin Airlines, we don't believe that a lack of financial means should limit someone from receiving the healthcare they require,” said Friesen. “If a flight with Bearskin Airlines can provide access to specialized care not available in the north, we are proud to be able to help in that way.”

“Hope Air could not get Canadians to the healthcare they need without the donated flights from partners such as Bearskin Airlines,” said Keller-Hobson. “We applaud Bearskin Airlines for their charitable contributions and their exceptional generosity in helping Hope Air to remove the barriers of distance and cost that separate Canadians from the health care they need.”


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