In May of 1995, a small group of pilots - John Woudstra, Chris Evans and Cam Stableford, from the Hamilton area founded the Youth Flight Canada Education Fund. They wanted to support young people who faced major challanges in their life, who would be inspired, motivated and educated through their love of aviation. Using personal funds to underwrite the incorporation of the charity, obtaining letters patent and by undertaking fundraising efforts to get the program running, Cam and his board organized events across Canada, using a donated aircraft and talents of volunteer pilots and ground crew.
In Cam's words "when an individual is "stung" by the bug of flight, it is empowering and overwhelming, often resulting in an endless desire to share this "gift". When the gift is shared, especially with those who would otherwise not have an opportunity to take part, the result is an emotional melding of many thoughts and feelings, so powerful that can scarcely be expressed. Is the resulting "gift" greater for the giver of the gift (pilots) or the recipient of the gift (youth)? .... its a tough call."
In 2000, Charles Petersen and a new group of directors were handed the torch by Cam to continue supporting youth and increasingly people with disabilities through Aviation. This new group, based out of York Soaring near Orangeville Ontario, began providing gliding scholarships worth $500 or more to youth with 'an infectious enthusiasm for aviation'. While many young people earn a coveted pair of pilots wings, due to high costs of the sport, and the ever rising cost of post-secondary education, they are not able to continue in their love of aviation after just being bitten by the flying bug.
Since then Youth Flight Canada has granted on average 25+ Soaring Scholarships each year to the keenest young pilots in the country. Inspired by this success, the Soaring Association of Canada founded a similar program for 20 soaring scholarships worth $1000 each, in cooperation with gliding clubs across the country. These recipients have gone on to fly with Air Canada Jazz, Cathay Pacific, become competitive cross country glider pilots, instructors and aerospace engineers while others have simply remained in general aviation where they otherwise would not have been supported to do so.
Realizing that people with disabilities had little access to the inspiring feeling of the ultimate freedom though aviation through his friend Marie Winter, a past concert pianist and aerobatics pilot who was loosing her mobility to a fight with M.S., Charles brought a group of paraplegic glider pilots and their supporters, called Freedoms Wings International up from the United States. For two years in a row they demonstrated the need and interest for a similar program in Canada near Toronto at York Soaring. By using adaptive controls in gliders for paraplegics and in some cases quadraplegics, Youth Flight Canada began "Freedoms Wings Canada". In 2003, the Ontario Trillium Foundation purchased Youth Flight Canada an accessible glider for $75,000. This cost free program to people with disablities has grown across the country expanding to Vancouver and Vernon in British Columbia, Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta and Ottawa Ontario.
The past Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, David Onley has become the Honourary Patron of YFC. Not only is His Honour a champion for people with disabilities, he is also a keen aviation enthusiast. Another of our high profile supporters is Marc Garneau, Canadian Space Agency astronaut and licenced glider pilot, who flew with us in Ottawa at the Gatineau Gliding Club this past summer.