Hope soars through PALS

Submitted photo Gary Evans and his wife, Inis, prepare to take a flight as part of the PALs program.

BUCKHANNON — A cancer diagnosis for one family led them to new heights and, in the process, to finding PALS who could provide hope and help when it was needed most.

Patient Airlift Services Inc., a national 501 (c)(3), arranges free air transportation for individuals requiring out-of-town or out-of-state medical treatment who cannot afford or are unable to fly commercially, for compassionate assistance and for humanitarian purposes, according to information provided from PALS.

The company, headquartered at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, New York, stepped up in a big way to help Inis Evans – not once but twice.

Gary Evans said his wife, Inis, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer on Jan. 14, 2019, and was given the devastating diagnosis of no cure, no treatment and no hope.

“When hope is gone and the only certain thing remaining is our faith and a loving and caring God, we step forward and stand on the promises,” he said at Thursday’s Buckhannon City Council meeting. “Our family did that, we stood on the promises and began to search for somewhere God would send her for help.

“Through tears, cares and sincere prayers, we were led to Houston, Texas for help at one of our great country’s largest cancer centers.

“We struggled to find transportation. Driving was out of the question, air transportation was questionable with a shortness of time required for medical appointments, motel reservations and high cost of flights.”

Flying seemed to be the best option so the Evans did their research and booked a flight.

“We started frantically searching for a flight,” he said. “Finally we located one. Three days before its departure, our reservations were canceled. We had tried others who claimed reduced fares and certain service; however, they all failed and each at a great expense.”

Time was running out but Evans said they were still searching for a way to Texas.

“We vowed to get her to Houston, even by dogsled if necessary,” he said.

Two days before the appointment, the Evans received a call from PALS who told them they could help.

“Those were some of the most comforting words we could ever have heard,” he said.

“They told us that we could not fly with them because their pilots were too busy on short notice but they would arrange a free flight on a commercial airline to and from Houston.

“We boarded that flight in Pittsburgh,” he said. “They also arranged for Ubers to pick us up in Houston, take us to our motel and pick us up for the return flight at no cost.”

After a few weeks of treatment back in West Virginia, Inis was led to a major hospital and staff in Boston, Mass. where she could continue her fight against cancer.

“We contacted the airlift service that had graciously provided our flight before and asked if it were possible to help once more,” Evans said. “Their kindness, comfort and consideration certainly were an encouragement in discouraging times. They arranged transportation on their corporate jet in Pittsburgh once again free. They flew Inis, Jeremy (son) and I to Boston.”

The Evans, who had experienced PALS on two different trips, asked if the opportunity was available to people in West Virginia and were told that if interest was shown in their flights that they would offer it in the state.

“We have been spreading the great news at every opportunity and every location we can find,” he said. “We pray that the seed of hope offered by PALS through us grows to spread throughout our state.”

Claire Stapleton, director of development, marketing and communications, said, “PALS will fly in and out of all viable airports in West Virginia. Airports may differ based on the pilot availability and landing needs.”

PALS operates through a team of volunteer pilots as well as corporate and commercial partners to provide families in need with comprehensive door-to-door transportation including free air and ground transport. There is no limit to the number of times a family can fly with PALs.

The team includes more than 1,300 active volunteers including 600 command pilots and arranges more than 200 flights a month. Since 2008, PALS has served over 2,900 families with more than 19,000 flights and 3,500 ground trips. Stapleton said that PALS is always looking for volunteer pilots, auto-pilots (drivers), ambassadors and corporate partners.

Evans, who continue on the cancer journey with his wife, told city council, “This is not about my family. It’s about the services offered for all of us.

“No one needs to ever shrink into a helpless hopelessness because they cannot afford to fly to a distant medical facility for second opinions, new cures or clinical trials,” he said.

To learn more about PALS, make a donation, volunteer or request services, visit www.PALSflight.com or call 1-888-818-1231.

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