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Little Wings @ The Coalface

Not for profit organisation Little Wings started 12 years ago in NSW with just one plane and has now grown to four planes and flies across 71 regions in NSW, the ACT, QLD and even parts of the Northern Territory.

Twelve years ago, the organisation started to provide services to children undergoing cancer treatment at The Children’s Hospital in Westmead, Sydney. Since then, the service has expanded to provide air and land transport for any child who is seriously ill or has a chronic illness and needs a hospital more than three hours’ drive from their home.

Little Wings has three hangers in NSW, one in Bankstown, another at Cessnock and the third at Archerfield.

Chief Operating Officer Katie McIntyre said when they fly a child to treatment, it isn’t just a one off – they’re with them for their entire treatment journey until they’re 18 years old.

“We have a little one who has been flying with us for eight years and she will fly with us until she is 18.

“Little Wings is the next level of care when the patient no longer needs that emergency treatment.”

When Katie came on board four years ago, the service was doing around 10 missions a week and towards the end of last year they were flying up to 70 missions every week.

“That’s over 5,000 children we’ve been able to support with Little Wings and our Medical Wings missions.”

Little Wings @ The Coalface
Marley Kemp with mum and dad Brooke and Michael Kemp from Bega NSW.

The Medical Wings program is in addition to Little Wing’s transportation service. It is designed to support children in their community with medical appointments.

“It’s something we started because of some of the challenges during covid. We didn’t want to bring children into the city, so we flew teams of allied health professionals or pediatricians into rural and remote areas, and they do clinics for all the children in the area. And, the program just stuck,” said Katie.

“Sometimes we’re seeing that it’s the first time ever some of these communities have ever seen an OT or another medical specialist in their community.”

The stories of the families who fly with the service are amazing. 10-year-old Zac had cancer in the tissue around his eye which resulted in the removal of his eye and an intense bout of chemotherapy. In 2021 Zac was told the cancer had spread which saw him spend about 4-months in Sydney. Little Wings helped Zac and his family get him the help he needed.

Another story is 7-month-old Vaylen who traveled from Narrabri to hospital with Little Wings to get the healthcare he needed, and Logan who flies from Canberra to Sydney to get the help he needs.

Little Wings relies on grants and donations to run their service to ensure it’s available to anyone who needs to use it.

Little Wings @ The Coalface
Banjo Moore and mum Lisa from Old Mill (near Inverell) NSW.

“The need is always growing. We are prepared to do anything to get the money for the service, even just a sausage sizzle!

“We never want a family to be struggling.

“We are over 90 per cent volunteer based, our pilots, drivers, event staff are all volunteers. Our pilots must have over a thousand hours flying time and they must hold commercial licenses. They are exceptional pilots; they give up their time for free to fly for us.

“The drivers also give up their time for free, they all do multiple flights and drives for us every week at no cost.

“Each and every one of them are nothing short of amazing.”

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