PHI International (PHI) normally flies passengers to oil rigs in the Taranaki basin from its New Plymouth Base, but over the last six months, they have been flying children experiencing ill health and disabilities – in order to bring a small bit of happiness during difficult times.
On Saturday 7 May, PHI, a global helicopter services provider, took 12 children from Conductive Education Taranaki, an educational programme, for the flight of a lifetime.
PHI has partnered with Uplift in Kind, a Nelson-based social enterprise that works with aviation companies and Gabby’s Starlit Hope, a charity in memory of Gabby Devine that was founded on the premise of random acts of kindness. The flights take in the spectacular sights of New Plymouth and Mount Taranaki. Two flights were organised for the Conductive Education children in the Augusta Westland AW139, which seats 12 passengers. Each of the children was able to share the experience with a sibling, parent or caregiver.
New Plymouth Base and Contract Manager, Roger Duncan, said supporting Uplift in Kind and Gabby’s Starlit Hope was an easy decision and a heart-warming initiative for the business to get involved with. PHI has committed to four hours of flying over a 12-month period, with the team doing 20-minute flights approximately every month to six weeks.
“Our team feels privileged to offer a few hours of flying for this cause. Both the crew and the passengers have really enjoyed the flights we have had so far, and it has truly put a smile on everyone’s face after a difficult couple of years,” said Roger.
Uplift in Kind’s Tony McCombe said he was thrilled when PHI came on board with the initiative.
“It’s really special to get these kids up flying, it’s not something they would otherwise get the opportunity to do. We’re grateful that PHI is helping to give these children a moment of joy with their families,” said Tony.
Passenger, Vicky Thomas later shared that her daughter Lucy had an amazing day and experienced a huge sense of achievement from doing something outside of her comfort zone. “She had a smile on her face the whole time,” said Vicky.
Sarah Devine, Gabby’s mum, said that every family was over the moon with the experience.
“It’s really special when the kids are presented with certificates and each family has their photo taken in the helicopter. Everyone left with huge smiles and were so thankful for an amazing experience. Special thanks go to PHI for having Gabby’s legacy be a small part of this initiative,” said Sarah.
“It’s also very humbling when the local community gets behind the event with donated food from Yarrows the Bakers, Knead – Artisan Donuts and Piccolo Morso, along with Mel from Le Toi Photography donating her time.”
Uplift in Kind operates throughout New Zealand and is looking for other companies to become involved. Gabby’s Starlit Hope continues to provide random acts of kindness and support to families in need.
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