ANGELS FLY LILY HOME
CHARITY FLIES 12-YEAR-OLD STUCK IN SHEPPARTON HOME TO THE SUNSHINE STATE
The COVID-19 pandemic trapped 12-year-old Lily Camm in Shepparton, 1793km from her parents in Gladstone, Queensland. Now, she is on her way home.
This morning Lily Camm, 12, will wake up exactly where she needs to be — under the same roof as her mum, Jess Tibbs, who has spent weeks desperately searching for a way to bring her daughter home from Shepparton to Gladstone, Queensland.
Lily had been staying in Shepparton with her grandmother Helen Perry and after a change in circumstances she longed to be reunited with her mum and younger siblings in the sunshine state.
But with borders closed indefinitely it seemed borderline impossible.
‘‘Love you, miss you, bye,’’ became the five-word sign-off to frequent phone calls between the separated mother and daughter — one simple sentence that said so much.
Finally, Jess connected with Angel Flight, a charity which normally co-ordinates nonemergency f lights to help people in regional Australia access medical treatment.
Angel Flight has recently stepped up to help children stuck interstate by offering ‘COVID transfers’ to families left in gut-wrenching situations when internal borders snap shut at short notice.
Flights like Lily’s are now a common occurrence, according to Angel Flight chief executive Marjorie Pagani, whose organisation has arranged 20 compassionate transfers in recent months.
‘‘Some of these scenes bring you to tears,’’ she said.
‘‘The motto we’ve got is ‘help where help is needed’ and that's exactly what we do . . . It is so rewarding.’’
In the past week Angel Flight has performed seven interstate transfers — mostly infants and children needing help to return to Queensland.
Angel Flight supported the family by sending travel plans to respective state governments, offering to provide a single sterile aircraft and a pilot who wouldn’t leave the tarmac to avoid contact with any other person.
Lily’s itinerary took her from Shepparton to Gladstone via Armidale, a day-long trip involving a lot of red tape.
The young passenger was in the capable hands of Angel Flight pilot Darrin Ward, who flew from Camden, NSW, to collect his precious cargo.
Darrin, who had been volunteering with the charity for more than a decade, said he was happy to be able to offer his skills and aircraft to help reunite a family.
Lily didn’t want to go to sleep on Wednesday night, brimming with anticipation for the next day’s flight.
‘‘I’m excited to see my mum,’’ she said.
Jess struggled to speak through the emotion yesterday morning, five hours away from hugging her daughter for the first time in months.
‘‘I’m just so excited to finally get her here,’’ she said on one last long-distance phone call. ‘‘Thank you to Angel Flight.’’ Standing on the tarmac, Helen was overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone involved in organising the rescue mission.
‘‘It gives you faith in human nature,’’ she said.