Hope Air arranges free flights for those who cannot afford the cost of getting to healthcare facilities in larger urban centres. Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 25, Thomas is holding her own personal fundraising event for the charity, called "Cruisin' for Hope Air".
Thomas made headlines earlier this year after saving a man's life while at her job as a Walmart greeter. She has been raising pledges and will be riding an older motorized wheelchair around the walking track at the Pomeroy Sport Centre as many times as she can before it runs out of batteries. Thomas receives help from Hope Air herself, and feels this is a better way of trying to give back than simply making a small financial donation herself.
"Hope Air helps me out by getting me to my appointments when I have no other access to get there," she explains. "I'm hoping I can raise some funds and an awareness."
Motivated by what Hope Air has done for her, and by family friends who have had a child fighting cancer, she's setting out to raise as much money for the charity as she can. Thomas says that the cost of travelling for healthcare can add up quickly, including flights for the patient and caregiver, a hotel to stay in overnight, and multiple meals a day. She hopes the community can come out and support the cause, saying "every penny helps".
"I just couldn't imagine how horrendous it is for these parents," she says. "I just hope that we can raise some money here in Fort St. John and let the people know that there are children that fly out of here all the time with Hope Air, and let the people know that we care, and that we're willing to help our children."
Thomas' "cruise" will start tomorrow at the Northern Vac Walking Track in the Pomeroy Sport Centre at 9 a.m. Pledges can be made in a lump sum or per lap, which will be a mystery until the red lights flash on her wheelchair. If unable to make the event, those wishing to donate can also pledge on www.hopeair.ca by clicking Support Hope Air and designating the donation in honour of Darlene Thomas. Thomas also invites anyone else to join her, and to collect their own pledges.