Young brain cancer patients on cloud nine after helicopter ride with Richie McCaw
Jonty Clare, 2, murmurs "helicopter, helicopter" from his father's lap and peers over him to get a better view from his spot behind rugby legend Richie McCaw.
McCaw had whisked Jonty, Edward Nye, 12, and Lydia Benner, 16, off on a sky-high tour of Christchurch. The Thursday afternoon helicopter outing was a rare treat for the three, who each have brain cancer.
Benner "freaked out" when she missed a call from the trip organiser, surgeon Jim Worthington. Since the West Coast family discovered her tumour four years ago, they had travelled back and forth to Christchurch for treatment. Usually a call from an expert carried bad news.
"I just thought 'oh no', what's happened to my tumour now." When she called back, he offered her a spot on board the flight.
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"It was a massive amazing surprise and when you're up there it's surprisingly much smoother than a plane. I just want to do it again now."
Edward rode shotgun. He was so chuffed with the trip he wants to become a pilot – "an expensive hobby", McCaw warned. When the youngster got out with a grin and steady feet, it was hard to tell it was his first time in a helicopter.
That was not the case for everyone, McCaw said.
"A few come off a bit green and wide-eyed, but this lot have done great. That's why we try and get the photos done beforehand, just in case."
"Sometimes you take flying for granted, but on days like these you realise not everyone gets to go up in a helicopter every day," McCaw said.
The White Matter Brain Cancer Trust, an organisation providing support to cancer sufferers and their families, gifted the ride.
Trustee Jim Worthington bought the prize, donated by Christchurch Helicopter's chief executive Terry Murdoch, at a fundraiser auction and wanted to treat "deserving kids" to a memorable day out.