On October 4, 2022, I took a world-class helicopter sightseeing trip around Southern Vancouver Island. My parents, Reg & Inez Smith, came as my guests along with two Power To Be staff members, Kira Rowsell and Paul Blood.
The helicopter tour was arranged by Tim Cormode, Founder of Power To Be and now-CEO of Power To Give. Tim and I met in 2006 when I became a program participant with Power To Be. At the time, I had recently experienced an accident and sustained a life-altering injury. I’m a power chair user and through Power To Be, I had the opportunity to engage in an adaptive 3-year outdoor recreation skills-building program funded in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation, where a group of individuals living with a spinal cord injury found their independence and got back into nature.
Over the years, Tim invited me to volunteer with Power To Be for public speaking engagements with current and prospective donors. I joined the staff team in 2014 supporting community engagement and I recently joined our Marketing and Communications department. As the organization has grown and our roles have changed and expanded, Tim and I have been there for each other through our journeys within and outside of Power To Be and remain close.
What I didn’t know is that Tim had been quietly working on a plan for quite some time to make a helicopter experience come to life for me. Through Tim’s contacts, he arranged for a helicopter owner, Chris Le Fevre and VIH Execujet, to donate the flight hours and fuel, a pilot, Peter Norie, to donate his time, and wrangled some of our program staff into helping with logistics: it was complex for me to move from my chair to the height of a helicopter cockpit!
What Tim didn’t know until we were on our way is that for many years, both of my parents worked around aeronautics, and thinking about flight travel brings back the warmest memories for me of spending time with my mom and dad. My mom worked as an executive flight coordinator and my dad is a retired private pilot. They both worked for the same company, and I grew up riding along in their small jets and helicopters. In Ontario, we would travel in choppers throughout the countryside and fly back over Lake Ontario.
In all those years, we never flew in a helicopter all together, and it seemed impossible. With my mom in her 70’s, my dad in his 80’s, and the logistical challenges that it takes to get a person with my physical challenges into a helicopter, I never thought or imagined we would.
But we did! Taking in panoramic views of local Victoria landmarks, travelling over Sooke Potholes and along the Greater Victoria Water Supply area, we connected as a family, colleagues, and new friends, while above the 20,550 hectares of sandy beaches and dense forest land in the Sooke, Goldstream, and Leech watersheds.
Thank you to Tim, VIH Execujet, Peter, and my amazing Power To Be colleagues, who are so generous and thoughtful. My parents and I feel extremely lucky to have been gifted this amazing adventure and it has left me with a renewed sense of what is possible. As Tim Cormode cements his role as CEO of Power To Give, this shows his heart remains with Power To Be.