Free travel and accommodation for patients needing care
*Correction - The pilot in the attached video was mistakenly named Harold Fast. It's actuallly volunteer pilot Russ Airey.
This has been a tough year for nine-year-old Henry Debowski. In April he was diagnosed with leukemia.
"Lots of anxiety because of this one month that teared me down," he said.
And it was also very tough news for his mom Bristol but there was a lot more to deal with than the cancer.
"They basically told us that we would be in Vancouver for seven months, on and off. Away from home, basically living there for the majority of his treatment," she said.
They live in Kelowna and for a single mom on a limited income that meant a lot of travel and accommodation that she couldn’t afford.
"Yeah I didn't have any idea how many times we'd actually be flying back and forth. It's been 20 or 30 times since April,” she added.
There are thousands of families in the same situation as Bristol but fortunately there is financial help available through Hope Air, which was listed number 27 on MacLean Magazine's top 100 Canadian Charities for 2020.
"The gap in that system is that where you live and how much money you have dictates how easy it is to access the health care system," explained Doug Keller-Hobson, CEO of Hope Air.
Hope Air relies on volunteer pilots for short haul flights and donations to handle longer trips.
And now the charitable group has teamed up with Airbnb to provide accommodation as well. Airbnb hosts can sign up to join the Open Homes program to provide accommodation for free, some opt to provide a discount and in many cases Airbnb will directly provide the funds to cover the costs.
Patients who qualify for support through Hope Air are automatically eligible for free accommodations through Airbnb.
"After 33 years of providing travel we're now able to provide accommodation," said Keller-Hobson.
And that's made a huge difference for the Bristol and Henry Debowski.
"Huge, like massive, there's no way I could afford it," she said.
Henry is on the mend now but he's not out of the woods. The type of cancer will require another four years of therapy and treatment before he can finally declared cancer free. How does he feel about the future now?
"Ah, calm," he said with a big smile on his face.