East Bay Pilot Ferrying Sick Children To Life-Saving Treatments Celebrates 100th Mission

Given enough time, Doug Harding could probably tell you just how many times he's gotten behind the controls of a plane in his life. As a career pilot and flight instructor the number would be, no doubt, huge.

Harding needs not time at all, though, recalling exactly how many times he has piloted one, particular type of flight.

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"One hundred. We actually did it," Harding said.

One hundred Hope Flights, that is.

In 2005 Harding came up with the idea to help sick children by doing one of the things he knows best: flying. Hope Flight Foundation is the result; a non profit flying sick children from all over California and Nevada to the Bay Area for life-saving treatments like chemotherapy.

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All, for free.

Harding has been flying a six-year-old boy named Isaac from Yreka to Palo Alto ever few moths for the past four years. Isaac was born without much of his lower intestine and the treatments Harding makes possible are keeping him alive until a transplant is possible.

Isaac's family says they could never afford the travel costs on their own and are eternally grateful to Hope Flight. "It means everything," Isaac's mother, Deborah said.

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"I like to say we're not just in the transportation business, we're in the life transformation business," Harding said.

Harding says he is proud, of course, of his 100th mission but can't help think of what more he'd like to do, particularly with more funding.

He has, in the past, had to turn down families because there wasn't enough money available to pay for fuel. It costs on average $1,000 to fly a patient and his or her family round trip.

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Harding would also like to purchase a larger, used plane which could accommodate patients on stretchers. He estimates it will cost close to $1 million.

They are sky-high hopes, for sure, buy who better to reach them than someone who is used to being there.

"I don't really wanna do anything else, this is where I know that I called to do, called to be and it's all kind of clicking it feels right."

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