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Our Community: Taking flight for Hope Air, prawn and fiddle fest

Volunteer pilots will take to the air on Monday for the launch of this year’s Give Hope Wings expedition, a three-week-long expedition to raise awareness and funds for Hope Air,
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From left, supporter Lise Ash and pilots Steve Drinkwater and Dave McElroy stand by their planes in a hangar at Vancouver International Airport in May. The trio are some of the 30 pilots and support crew taking part in the Give Hope Wings expedition, a three-week-long expedition that will take them from Victoria to St. John’s to raise awareness about Hope Air, which provides travel and accommodation support for Canadians in need of medical care far from home. VIA HOPE AIR

Taking flight for Hope Air — and patients in far-off places

Volunteer pilots will take to the air on Monday for the launch of this year’s Give Hope Wings expedition, a three-week-long expedition to raise awareness and funds for Hope Air, which provides travel and accommodation support for Canadians in need of medical care far from home.

The expedition will feature up to 30 pilots flying a multi-aircraft series of flights that will cover 5,100 nautical miles coast-to-coast from Victoria to St. Johns, Nfld.

Hope Air offers free air transport, ground transportation and accommodations for people living in remote communities who face financial barriers when they need to travel to far-flung urban centers to get to medical appointments for treatment.

It says the free flights it provides to alleviate the stress of patients travelling long distances by car or train are sometimes through donations of airline partners and volunteer pilots, but 70% of the time by direct donations.

To date, the organization, which was founded in 1986 as Mission Air Transportation Network, has funded 160,000 flights, including 70,000 in British Columbia.

This is the sixth year of the event, but the first time it has originated in Victoria.

The group hopes to raise $1 million, enough to fund 2,800 flights, accommodation and meals. Learn more about the fundraiser at hopeair.ca/GHW2022. For more about Hope Air, go to hopeair.ca.

Prawn and fiddle fest supports rugby program

The James Bay Athletic Association is hosting Spot Prawn and Fiddle Fest, a fundraising event to benefit youth rugby in the neighbourhood, June 12 at MacDonald Park in James Bay.

The family-friendly event will feature a spot prawn meal, West Coast, Irish, Celtic and Métis fiddling, an exhibition game of youth rugby, vendors and family-friendly activities.

Fiddle virtuoso Daniel Lapp is curating a range of fiddle performances by many West Coast legends.

“Folks are in for a feast of the ears as well as the bellies at this inaugural festival, the first of its kind in Victoria,” said Lapp. “There’s a range of coast to coast to coast fiddling, dancing styles and Victoria’s first fiddle contest in recent memory.”

In addition to the spot prawn peel and eat area, there will be several food and local artisan vendors, with licensed and non-licensed areas.

There will also be various rugby displays, including a Try Rookie Rugby area for children age five to 13, a skills area and obstacle course where you can win prizes, plus some featured matches of youth rugby 7s.

Proceeds from the beverage garden and vendor sign-ups will go toward creating a development officer position for youth in rugby at the club, with an eye on future growth of all existing programming.

Admission is free. The event runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 12 at MacDonald Park, 212 Niagara St.

Soup’s on again in Sidney

Neighbours Lunch, a long-running weekly soup kitchen offered by the St. Andrew Anglican Church in Sidney, is set to reopen after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Neighbours Lunch has served 97,000 bowls of soup and countless buns since its inception in 2004. In recent years, close to 90 guests would turn up for a hot bowl of soup each week and return for a turkey dinner at Christmas.

The soup kitchen is supported by donations, the Town of Sidney and buns from Peninsula Co-op.

There is no charge for the meal. Guests are asked to wear a mask except when seated and eating.

The Neighbours Lunch runs 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. every Wednesday starting June 8 at the St. Andrew Anglican Church hall, 9691 Fourth St. in Sidney. For more information, call the church office at 250-656-5322.

Big on Tiny Homes

Aryze Developments was recently recognized with a special Innovations in Affordability Award for its Tiny Homes Village project, which celebrated its first anniversary in May.

The award, bestowed by the Urban Development Institute Award for Excellence, recognized projects that have had a positive impact on the community and the urban landscape. The peer jury lauded the uniqueness of the project and its worthiness of special recognition.

The community of shipping containers converted to 100-square-foot living units, home to 30 people, sprang up as a quick solution to house some of Victoria’s burgeoning homeless population. Many had been living in tents in parks or in doorways of businesses throughout the city, in part as a result of restrictions on capacity at temporary shelters stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness partnered with Aryze Developments on the project. Together, they launched a crowdfunding campaign that raised $550,000 from the public and businesses in three months.

The village, intended to provide transitional housing to break the cycle of homelessness, was assembled on the parking lot of the adjacent Royal Athletic Park, which is owned by the City of Victoria. Two meals a day are delivered to residents, who have access to a common area to reheat food, along with communal showers and toilets. All but three of the original group of residents who moved in have remained in the program, which has attracted attention from other social agencies in Canada and as far away as Germany, hoping to emulate it.

Doubling down to help Cool Aid

Help Cool Aid fill specific funding gaps for some of its lesser-known programs during the charity’s largest fundraising event — the Homecoming Matching Challenge.

From now until June 10, the challenge will double every dollar donated up to $85,000, thanks to Peninsula Co-op, Knappett Projects, Jim Thomson and Kathleen Brandsma, the Stovel Family, Viveka Foundation Fund, TL Housing Solutions, Butler Concrete and Aggregates and Megson Fitzpatrick.

“Those of us who have done well in society need to step up and contribute to the social fabric and I think Cool Aid is a vital part of that,” said John Knappett, CEO of Knappett Projects. “We want to make sure that everyone in need has access to these vital support services, so I, and several other supporters, came together to create this challenge. We hope it will inspire others to give.”

Last year’s challenge raised $164,000. The goal this year is $170,000, which will go towards a grocery gift card initiative, employment training, and support and programming for seniors.

Cool Aid provides housing, emergency shelter, health and dental care and other supports to more than 12,000 people in the capital region each year.

For more information, or to donate, go to coolaid.org/donate.

Help for Ukraine

The Victoria Chinatown Lioness Lions Club is holding a paper shredding and refundable bottle collection fundraising drive to help Ukraine, at the Fort and Foul Bay Save-On-Foods, June 18.

Prevent identity theft and protect your privacy by shredding your confidential documents.

The suggested donation is $10 a box or equivalent, with immediate shredding. Cash, debit, credit card or company cheques are accepted.

Refundable pop, water, alcohol and milk containers are also being accepted.

The event runs 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 18 in the parking lot of the Fort and Foul Bay Save-On-Foods.

For more information, go to victoriachinatownlionesslionsclub.ca.

Celebrating 14 years of WITS

The WITS Programs Foundation turns 24 this month.

Most local children, many of them now adults, have learned exactly what it means to “use your WITS” — Walk Away, Talk it out, Ignore or Seek Help — to manage conflicts or victimization.

Still based in Esquimalt and operating under the name WITS Programs Foundation for the last six years, the local non-profit society has grown to become a national success story.

The program is taught in roughly 1,400 Canadian schools, as well as in Belgium, Brazil, Egypt, Korea, New Zealand and the U.S.

The initial catalyst and creative mind behind making WITS a school program was Tom Woods, a former police officer.

“As school police liaison officers, we were always searching for positive ways to help children and youth, and break down barriers,” said Woods, who is still involved as vice-president of the foundation. “The WITS Program was the perfect vehicle for reaching out to kids and fun to be a part of. It has been an honour to play a role in this important message and see the incredible impact it has had on hundreds of thousands of kids.”

He acknowledges School District 61, local police services, the University of Victoria, Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Brittanique and others for their support in making WITS and its French component, DIRE, what it is today.

A recently finished revitalization of WITS/DIRE now emphasizes diversity and inclusion. It includes new books, educational videos, and information for families in 12 languages, and provides several program elements free to Indigenous communities.

For more information, go to witsprogram.ca.

parrais@timescolonist.com