Angel Flight keeps busy through 2020

The dark clouds of the pandemic didn’t stop the East Kootenay charity

Angel Flight East Kootenay pilot and co-founder Brent Bidston with some patients being flown between East Kootenay communities and Kelowna. (Photo contributed by Brent Bidston)

Angel Flight East Kootenay has had a busy year despite all the turbulence.

“Our requests went up 400 per cent when we reopened,” said co-founder of the East Kootenay charity, Brent Bidston.

“We think that’s partially because there was a backlog, but also because a lot more people know about us.”

The volunteer-run charity which flies folks in need of a free lift to much-needed medical services in Kelowna from communities in East Kootenay has made 126 flights so far in 2020 – of which only six were between January and April.

Co-founders Brent Bidston and Todd Weselake – who are also pilots with the charity – have flown a grand total of 154 flights since the charity first took off in 2019, with 103 people helped.

“That number we expect to continue going up,” said Bidston, adding however that “there is a finite limit to it, because there’s only so many people the Kelowna Hospital can take, and only so many of them are coming from the East Kootenay.”

Angel Flight East Kootenay was able to stay operational through most of 2020 in spite of the pandemic by adhering to Transport Canada COVID guidelines.

Bidston explained that the patients they flew between East Kootenay communities and Kelowna often had no other way to get there given tough road conditions and a lack of easily accessible public transport.

Factoring in fuel and associated costs, the average Angel Flight East Kootenay return trip costs about $500 – meaning they’re always looking for more donations.

Most events planned for the charity were cancelled due to the pandemic, but Bidston said the community was backing them up anyway. “We had a six year old raise $350 for us on her own.”

Of East Kootenay folks helped so far to get to medical care in Kelowna, the vast majority are from the Cranbrook (47) and Elk Valley (28) area, with others from Creston, Nelson and Invermere hitching a ride.

To learn more about Angel Flight East Kootenay – whether to donate or inquire about their service – find them online, but make sure to specify East Kootenay.

READ MORE: Save On Foods raises over $14,000 for Angel Flight East Kootenay
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