Travel program for Labrador cancer patients grounded by cash crunch

Air Daffodil, which is operated by the Canadian Cancer Society, stopped operating in December 2017 when money ran out.

Air Daffodil's wings clipped in December, amid growing demand

Al Pelley is vice president of philanthropy for the Canadian Cancer Society in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Brian McHugh/CBC)

A charity that gives free flights to cancer patients in Labrador is temporarily grounded after an increase in demand and a shortage of cash.

Air Daffodil, which is operated by the Canadian Cancer Society, stopped operating in December 2017 when money ran out.

"The demand for this service was actually significantly more than we ever anticipated," said Al Pelley, vice president of philanthropy at the Canadian Cancer Society Newfoundland and Labrador Division.

"Because of the rapid depletion of the funds we got caught in the situation that we're in."

The service began in 2014 and is offered exclusively to cancer patients and their caretakers in Labrador.

"That's due to the high cost of travel out of Labrador," Pelley said.

"We thought that this was important and that we should try to address the issue and help."

600 flights

The sudden stop in service comes as the Canadian Cancer Society sees use climb ever-higher. Since its inception, Pelley said Air Daffodil paid for more than 600 one-way flights.

"The good news is more and more people are living longer and surviving," Pelley told the Labrador Morning Show. "So we're trying to do the best we can."

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Air Daffodil relies on donations from local service groups and fundraisers in Labrador — there's no contingency fund.

"We're competing for fundraised dollars in the community. It's challenging now, particularly, in the current economy."

Cancer society seeks $60K 

Pelley said he's been in talks with a few potential donors in Labrador and knows about a couple of fundraisers planned to get Air Daffodil flying again.

Flights won't resume until organizers have raised $60,000. Pelley wants to ensure there won't be any more breaks in service.

If all goes according to plan, Pelley said Air Daffodil will be up and running again in a matter of weeks.