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B.C. pilot helps cross-country runner compete at nationals

Shaun Heaps of West Coast Pilot Club made it possible for a talented young athlete to achieve a top-five finish at ACXC Nationals

A week ago, 17-year-old cross country runner Christina Peet-Williams of Chilliwack, B.C., finished fourth in the U18 race at the 2021 Canadian Cross-Country Championships. The top-five finish was a relief for Peet-Williams, who, three days previously, didn’t even think she would be there to compete since the catastrophic flooding in BC had made it almost impossible to travel to the Vancouver airport.

2021 ACXC Nationals results: U18, U20, masters, community race

Peet-Williams finished second at the BC High School XC Championships earlier this fall. A few weeks later, she was selected to represent BC Athletics at the Canadian XC Championships. But with the flooding, she didn’t have many options for travelling to Ottawa.

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Peet-Williams and her mother were planning to leave Wednesday to catch a Thursday flight at Vancouver International Airport with the rest of Team BC, but they were now stranded in Chilliwack. Peet-Williams’s father, Keith, left for Langley on Tuesday, before the highways were closed. A week prior, Keith received assistance from TRK Helicopters to transport his family from Hope to his home in Chilliwack. Keith reached out to TRK Helicopters again, but they could not help Christina get out of Chilliwack. But Keith was given a contact for Shaun Heaps of West Coast Pilot Club, an organization helping aspiring pilots get their license. He agreed to help, provided she could be at the Chilliwack airport within 30 minutes.

They rushed to the airport, and Christina made her flight out of Vancouver on Thursday with Team BC. At the meet, Christina said she was overwhelmed with relief just to be there: “I was so excited that I was able to compete, and my team was nothing but supportive the entire weekend,” she said.

Christina Peet-Williams’ reaction to her fourth-place finish in the U18 race at Nationals

Not only did Heaps help Christina catch her flight on the way out, but he also helped her get back to Chilliwack when the highways were still closed on the way back. When Keith asked Heaps about the cost, Heaps said “no charge, I am just happy to help.”

“I was ecstatic,” Christina said after learning that a kind-hearted pilot with a small plane was shuttling goods between Chilliwack and Langley. “Our community has been very impacted by the flood, and to fly me out of Chilliwack was pure kindness.”

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Heaps was touched by Christina’s story and knew what he needed to do. “When we were called to see if we could take her home to Chilliwack as well, we were honoured to complete the story,” Heaps said.

Heaps has organized a gofundme page to raise fuel and maintenance funds to help out the volunteer pilots, providing much-needed supplies and relief to people in isolated communities during the BC floods. All money raised goes directly to the team of volunteer pilots operating out of the West Coast Pilot Club.