Prince George cancer survivor Leora Wildi embodies what inspiration, courage, and strength all stand for, and she has a lot to be thankful this Thanksgiving.
When she was only 14 years old, she was diagnosed with two types of leukemia. Her treatment after receiving the diagnosis lasted five months and included a bone marrow transplant.
Now a 23-year-old, Wildi has been cancer-free for eight years. Hope Air has provided free flights to Leora to be able to get the health care she needs after developing serious and life-long complications from the treatments she received. She has needed more than 50 flights.
"Actually, Hope Air reached out to me," she tells PrinceGeorgeMatters. "They were wondering if I would do a video for them, or an interview actually is how it started, to drum up support for them. They're obviously a charity and they do a very important job. I've been using them for eight years, anything to help."
Wildi was then put in touch with the director that would be making the video. Ultimately, it was up to Wildi to choose who else would be in the video. There were so many people that all played a large role on her journey and not everyone she hoped for could be there, but she did have someone there that meant the world to her.
"My mom is my rock," she says. "She was there the whole time. She never left."
A production team then flew into Prince George and filmed the piece which was released on Oct. 1.
Jenifer Badry, team lead of community investment with WestJet, says the airline had been working with Wildi for roughly a month and a half.
"This is actually the second video in a series that we've done called WestJet Thanks and it's a concept where we reach out to one of our WestJet Cares for Kids partners and they help us identify one of their clients that they think would be great for the opportunity," she says. "We connected in this case with Leora and after a brief conversation, we realized she was an amazing fit and we wanted her story with Hope Air to be a part of it."
WestJet committed to doing two videos in the series for this year, with Wildi being the second feature.
"She is such an incredible, remarkable, and inspiring young woman," Badry says. "Her entire family and support system is incredible. It was such a joy to be a part of her story, tell her story, and of course get to help her say thank you to the individuals that helped her become the woman she is today."
Near the end of the video, Wildi tries to put her thanks into words, although saying thank you can be hard and may not feel adequate enough.
"I've always thought saying thank you is like saying goodbye," she says. "It's really hard and it never feels like enough. How can a thank you be enough? There is so much in life I have to be thankful for including family, friends, and the generosity of strangers. To all of you that showed me kindness, unconditional love and helped me be the person I am today, thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Enjoy the video by WestJet and make sure you have tissues handy, you'll need them.