One very invaluable charity that literally flies under the radar is Angel Flight Alberta, a service that airlifts patients in small northern communities to long-distance medical centres.
Few medical professionals have heard of it and still fewer people on the street are aware of this free service.
Yet for many Albertans living in remote areas, the flights provide a degree of comfort, reduce stress, speed up healing and assist the bottom line during a time of financial hardship.
As with any grassroots initiative that does not receive government funding, Angel Flight Alberta is hosting their second annual fundraiser tonight at St. Albert Community Hall.
Dash Riprock, the city’s top tier classic rock band plans to energize the evening with its catchy tunes, familiar lyrics and charismatic stage flair.
Gracing the stage is lead guitar Michael Cearns, drummer Des O’Kell, guitarist Bob Moran, bassist Mike Hill, pianist Myles Jackson and singers Fred Miller, Kassara Jaxson and Crystal Hanson.
Opening for Dash Riprock is up and coming country singer Brianna Boyko, a popular attraction at Big Valley Jamboree, CCMA special events and Alberta 55+ Senior Games.
“Last year, Dash Riprock had people dancing from the first set. They’re a high-energy group and their hearts are in the right place,” said Dr. Kerry Pawluski, the driving force behind Angel Flight.
Both a medical doctor and licensed pilot, Pawluski started the service in 2006 after seeing specific needs in the health care system were not being met.
Angel Fight’s goal is to transport outpatients for treatment who must travel long distances and/or are in financial situations that make it difficult or impractical to travel by car or bus.
“We fly people who are in financial difficulty, people that want to avoid contagion, people that might need once-a-week treatment,” said Pawluski. “Also, transition coordinators release people from hospitals, but some don’t have the resources to get home. We drive them to smaller airports and fly them home.”
In one instance, Angel Flight flew a woman from Grande Prairie to an Edmonton hospital for foot surgery and had her back home before the freezing wore off.
During another occasion, a child living in La Crete needed cancer therapy at a local hospital. If the father, the sole breadwinner for a family of seven drove to Edmonton with his son, he would have had to take three days off work.
“With Angel Flight we flew the mother and the child down for chemotherapy and they were back for supper, and the dad was able to keep working,” Pawluski said.
He explained that it costs $2,000 to $3,000 a day to maintain a patient in hospitals. By flying people out quickly, Angel Flight also reduces costs to the health care system.
Pawluski modeled Angel Flight Alberta after its British Columbia counterpart. The West Coast affiliate plans for 225 flights each year. Last year it executed 175, primarily on Vancouver Island.
Since its beginnings, Alberta’s volunteer pilots have transported about 70 people mainly to sparsely settled communities such as High Level, an 11-hour drive to Edmonton.
“They have all found it to be a universally positive experience.”
Fuel costs for each flight vary depending on distance and whether a single or twin-engine airplane is used.
“It’s about $250 per hour for a single. We did a round-trip to La Crete and it was about $1,000,” Pawluski quoted.
For the continued health of this grass-roots organization, tonight’s dance and silent auction is a way to inject badly needed funds into the budget as well as promote awareness.
“Especially with the economic downturn we are all more hard-pressed. This alleviates pain and suffering. People continue to need treatments and this grows our operation. This is especially important because we have no government funding.”
The fundraiser starts at 7 p.m. at St. Albert Community Hall, 17 Perron St. Door tickets are $30.