The first Wings4Kidz flight landed in Narromine on Tuesday afternoon carrying very precious cargo.
The flight transported two-yearold Molly Lillyman and her family to Sydney for her maintenance treatment for retinoblastoma, a rare malignant tumour in her right eye.
Mum and dad Rachel and John Lillyman were thrilled with the service.
“It’s so much better than a 10- hour train trip or seven hours in the car. Molly came out of the anaesthetic and we were on the plane home, our lives wouldn’t be the same without these guys,” Mr Lillyman said.
Wigs4Kidz launched on Tuesday with the inaugural flight taking the Lillymans from Bankstown to Narromine airport.
Charity co-founder Mel Grand said the service was for families like the Lillymans who had to travel for treatment.
“For children in rural areas with serious or life-threatening illnesses, their only option is the specialist medical care only available in major city hospitals,” she said.
“This means long journeys by car for several hours or days and can take several years before treatment is complete.
“Not only is this traumatic for the child but has a significant impact on the family unit.
“Wings4Kidz provides free private flights and ground transport for these children so they can get access to essential health services, but can also return to a safe and loving environment.”
This self-funded service is aiming to complete 1000 flights annually in NSW carrying more than 5000 seriously ill children and their families from rural areas to major hospitals in NSW. Wings4Kidz’s Kevin Robinson escorted the Lillymans on the flight.
“We saw a gap in the services in getting the families to Sydney. It’s not just kids with cancer, it’s children with heart conditions, blood disorders, congenital disorders, all kinds of conditions,” he said.
“There’s no limitations. It’s selffunded so people like Chad (Dunn), who is a commercial pilot, volunteers his time, everything is fundraised. The more funds we get the more flights we can do.”
The free service takes the families to Bankstown airport and provides a car service to the hospital or treatment centre the family needs.
“Normally we’d have to take the train home the next morning or drive down. Can you imagine driving seven hours in a car with little ones in this 40 degree weather?” Mr Lillyman said.
“There’s no stress, all we have to worry about is the kids.” Mrs Lillyman is grateful the whole family can be a part of Molly’s recovery.
“We couldn’t afford for John to come with us. We have a farm and there was one time we had to stay (in Sydney) for a whole month. Molly couldn’t understand where daddy was and John spent the whole time worrying about Molly. To see the look on both their faces when they saw each other was amazing,” she said.
Mr Robinson is hoping Wings4Kidz will take off.
“There’s so many families out there to help, that’s the easy part. It’s getting the funding that’s the hard part,’’ he said.
“Hopefully our families will build up at the same time as the funding. It’s a great opportunity for city-based operators to donate back to the country.”