“It’s like a lost dream that got reawakened. It took me 35 years to to get it done, but I have done it.”
Lise Ash was 53 when she realized her dream of earning her private pilot’s license, which allowed her to participate in a Canadian charity she is humbled to take part in.
The past summer, the now 58-year-old Langley pilot was among a group who took to the skies across Western Canada in an effort to raise awareness and funds for Hope Air.
The fourth annual Give Hope Wings expedition concluded Sept. 3. It raised $400,000 to provide 1,600 flights to help people who travel far from their home communities for medical care.
The national charity provides free flights and accommodations for Canadians in financial need who require medical care far from home.
“The thing about Canada is we do have universal health, we have our MSP, but that does not include travel, and so for all of us who live in urban centers – Hope Air just wasn’t on my radar because if I get sick, I just go to the walk-in clinic or to the hospital,” Ash said.
Rural communities is Western Canada have particular challenges with transportation to reach specialists and appointments.
The expedition, which featured approximately 15 planes and 20 volunteers, took off from Drumheller, Alta. and flew to Churchill, Manitoba and back to British Columbia while stopping in several communities.
To date, Give Hope Wings has raised $900,000 for 3,600 travel arrangements to help Canadians.
Ash is hoping by next summer she can take it one step further and begin to provide Angel Flights.
“There are private pilots in their own aircrafts that do what we call an Angel Flight, and fly less critically sick people to and from their appointments or diagnosis,” she explained. “And this is something that I am now hoping to do as well, as I have my own aircraft.”
Ash’s background is in nursing. Although she said she caught the “flying bug” at the age of 16, her mom advised her not to pass up her acceptance to nursing school.
“When I was 16 years old, growing up in Manitoba, I had the opportunity through the Air Cadet to get my gliders pilot’s license,” Ash recalled.
“I’m from a working family, there’s no way my parents could have ever afforded that, but through a scholarship, all I had to do was study – I was able to go away to Rivers, Manitoba for an entire summer at age 16.
“That following winter, sill in Air Cadets, I studied and actually won the scholarship to get my power wings, so that would have been my private pilot’s license. But, I was in Grade 12, it was my graduation year, and I had already applied and been accepted for my nursing program.”
Years later, after concluding her career in nursing, getting married, and having a family, Ash never did shake that “flying bug.”
“It took me 35 years to realize my dream, but at age 52, I said to myself, ‘You know what, I’m going to go for it,’” she recalled.
“And my family were such – they were my cheerleaders, they always have been my cheerleaders.”
Ash would spend the next 18 months training in Abbotsford.
“On Dec. 30, 2016, I got my private pilot’s license from Transport Canada, and have flown with the Abbotsford Flying Club for the years after that, and then… my husband and I decided this is a serious hobby for me, I love it, so why not buy our own plane and so just this year, in March, we purchased our own Cessna 182.”
And it is in this aircraft Ash hopes to provide Angel Flights by the summer. The same summer the charity is setting out to raise $1 million during the Give Hope Wings flight scheduled for June, where volunteers plan to embark on a month-long, coast-to-coast flight.
Ash estimates there could be up to 50 aircrafts at different legs of that flight. Crews plan to begin in Victoria, B.C. and reach St. John’s, Newfoundland before returning to Victoria.
To learn more about the charity and how you can support the cause visit hopeair.ca/givehopewings.
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