Meet our VFC Members
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Give Hope Wings and Hope Air thank these generous Volunteer Flight Crew (VFC) members for their generosity. These pilots – and others - have joined this mission for two primary reasons. First, they are eager to participate in this expedition to experience the adventure of their lives. Second: They want to give back. Each of our VFC are more than aware of the critical importance of the medical flights Hope Air provides, and each of them will fund about 100 free Hope Air flights.

These are very generous people who also choose to live life to its fullest – we salute you!

O'Brian Blackall

o'brian blackallI have had a passion for flying for over 50 years! I was fortunate to join the Air Force Cadets in Williams Lake and took my first flight in a RCAF DC-3. My thoughts of a career as a Canadian Air Force fighter pilot did not work out as planned (glasses). I was fortunate to develop a career as a British Columbia Land Surveyor and enjoyed becoming a private pilot. I have seen many great areas of Canada and the world as either a land surveyor or as a pilot.

Shelley and I have been blessed with four daughters and now have been doubly blessed with seven amazing grandkids which has caused our life to be especially busy…wouldn’t want it any other way! Shelley and I visited South America five years ago when our daughter was going to University in Argentina. We visited quite a large area of Argentina, Chile and Cape Horn by air, ground and boat. To be able to see it again by private aircraft was a dream come true when I joined the first Give Hope Wings Expedition in February 2018, and flew right around Patagonia from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was a trip I’ll remember for the rest of my life. And we raised over $500,000 for Hope Air in the process!

When the opportunity to join another Give Hope Wings flight to the north appeared, it was an easy decision for me to join in.

For 40 years, I have lived in Fort St. John, BC, so I understand the importance of being able to travel to medical appointments in bigger cities. Trying to get to medical centers during emergency or critical situations can be stressful, so to be able to help “give back” and help individuals and families in these communities, such as my own, is very fulfilling.

 

Anna Rusinowski

Anna photo Anna decided she wanted to learn how to fly while living in Australia and completed her Private Pilots License when she returned to Canada. Recently, she has enrolled in the Commercial Pilot diploma Program at Genesis Flight College in hopes of becoming a Flight Instructor and mentor others through their aviation journey.

Anna has been a member of The Ninety-Nines since 2016 and has dedicated a lot of her time to promoting aviation to young girls and women. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Northern Lights Aero Foundation, an organization which aims to attract women to enter careers in the aviation and aerospace sector.

Recently, Anna was selected as a recipient of the Ladies Love Taildraggers Tailwheel endorsement scholarship. She holds an Honours BA from the University of Toronto and a Post-graduate certificate in Business Management from George Brown College.

As one of the recipients of the Give Hope Wings Adventure Award for Women who Fly, Anna is looking forward to sharing the accomplishments of the journey in hopes of inspiring young people.

 

Annamarie van der Meijden

Annamarie photo Annamarie’s interest in aviation began at a young age, growing up overseas in rural Africa and through the experiences she had of flying in all sorts of aircraft. Seeing the importance of airplanes first-hand in the remote areas she has lived in and the impact they have on helping people in need has been pivotal in inspiring her to pursue aviation. While overseas, her own family required a medical evacuation by air which has given her the ability to see how important the work of Hope Air is in facilitating medical transport for Canadians.

In February of 2017, Annamarie earned her Private Pilots License at Mission Aviation Training Academy in Arlington, which focused on training pilots to fly in remote regions and was inspired through this to pursue her interest in mechanics. She then attended an Aircraft Maintenance program in British Columbia and is now currently enrolled at Conestoga College, working towards her CPL with multi-engine and IFR ratings while earning an Arts & Science Diploma. 

Annamarie currently works on Line Crew at the Waterloo-Wellington Flight Centre and volunteers with the maintenance department at the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association. Her goal is to become a commercial rated pilot and aircraft mechanic and use these skills to support people living in remote areas affected by poverty and natural disasters.

As one of the recipients of the Give Hope Wings Adventure Award for Women who Fly, Annamarie is excited to be part of an Expedition that resembles the type of flying she is working towards as a career. She believes aviation is a powerful tool in making a difference in people's lives and is thrilled to have this opportunity to support Hope Air and learn from the highly dedicated and skilled Give Hope Wings Crew.

 

Alexis Thind

alexis My goals and motivations for the Give Hope Wings Northwest Expedition are to raise awareness for two topics close to my heart: aviation and access to healthcare. Last year my father fought a 14-month battle with terminal brain cancer. I witnessed and experienced firsthand, the heartbreaking stories of families from remote communities travelling days for a lifesaving MRI or to see a specialist. The stress of disease or serious injury is difficult to deal with and is only compounded by the added hardship of affordable and timely transportation to seek medical care. Before my dad passed, I made a promise to him that I would strive to be the kind of daughter and pilot that would make him proud.

As a former RCAF CF-5 fighter pilot and 787 Captain with Air Canada, my dad encouraged me to give flying a shot. I started flying a little over a year ago but flight has always been a part of my life. After earning my Bachelors degree in Political Science, my plan was to attend law school. However, a few weeks after my graduation from UBC, my dad was diagnosed with Glioblastoma. As my Dad’s care became a full-time job, I made the decision to put off law school and move home to Whistler to support my mom and spend as much time with my dad as possible.

After an introductory flight at Glacier Air, I was hooked. A year has passed since my first ground school class, and to say it has been the most exciting year of my life would be an understatement. I have learned that there are many important opportunities to make a positive difference in the world as a pilot, the Give Hope Wings expedition being a great example. My ambition is to fulfill my dad’s legacy as a pilot and assist other families in need of being connected to healthcare.

 

Rani Tolton

vfc rani This expedition achieves my goal of helping fellow citizens in obtaining health care from remote parts of our country; helping others while enjoying one’s passion. My career started as a nurse working in remote and isolated areas of Canada such as Lac Brochet, Brochet, Island Lake areas in Manitoba, and Cape Dorset on Baffin Island. At times, feeling quite defeated in one’s knowledge and technical expertise, I took an Intensive Care course in Winnipeg, and then I graduated as a Nurse Practitioner from the University of Pittsburgh. A hunger for more knowledge led me to obtain my Medical Doctor degree followed by Family Medicine residency from the University of Manitoba. I have always wanted to combine initially Nursing and then Medicine with Aviation. My Master’s thesis in Nursing was related to medivacs by flight nurses. I completed my Diploma and not too long ago Masters by distant learning through the University of Otago in New Zealand.

I became interested in flying when at the age of 18 when I jumped out of a perfectly functioning aircraft not once but twice. I started taking flying lessons at Hamilton, Ontario, while undertaking nursing training. A check out ride from St. Andrews Airport in Winnipeg introduced me to the 99’s and I have never looked back.

This expedition will be an adventure of a lifetime while helping raise money for a very worthwhile cause. To fly in a small plane, to go where often it is difficult to set a foot, to see the wonders of Mother Nature – there are no words for such an adventure. To be able to go on this expedition - there can be no greater inner reward than bringing some Hope to others.