Brittany Keogh is a reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Cancer battler Skyla Keating's flying dream set to come true

Skyla Keating was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), and given just nine months to live. Photo / Supplied
Skyla Keating was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), and given just nine months to live. Photo / Supplied

A 5-year-old cancer battler's dream of flying in a helicopter could soon come true, thanks to an Auckland pilot.

Jonny Chambers contacted the Herald this afternoon offering to help fulfil Skyla Keating's bucket list wish, after reading about her battle with cancer in an article on the Herald's website.

In August last year, Skyla, who lives in Tauranga, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable tumour affecting the brain stem near the top of the spinal cord. She was given just nine months to live. That was 10 months ago.

A father-of-one, Mr Chambers is a helicopter pilot for Airworks Group, which operates from Mechanics Bay.

Mr Chambers said he wanted to offer a free flight to the family because he was aware of the devastation cancer could cause. A friend of his who he was teaching to fly had recently been diagnosed with the disease.

"It's not really a very nice situation."

He was aware of the urgency of the flight, given Skyla's prognosis.

The helicopter was currently being serviced, but would be airworthy from next week, he said.

"It's a six-seater, so a few family members can come along for the flight too."

The flight would depart from Auckland.

Skyla's grandfather Keith Hatwell said he would "love to" take Mr Chambers up on his offer, the third they had received since the article was published this morning.

"That would be awesome."

The family was aware of two other children, a boy in Waikato and a boy in Auckland, who had also been diagnosed with DIPG. Mr Hatwell said he would like to take all three children on the helicopter ride if the families could come to Auckland at the same time and Mr Chambers consented.

"That would be lovely."

Mr Hatwell said Sharlene Sharma, Miss Teen NZ Continents 2016, had also contacted the family to arrange to meet with Skyla, after reading her story.

As well as flying in a helicopter, Skyla hopes to visit the snow and go on a horse trek.

Her stepmother, Catherine Walker, has set up a Givealittle page to raise money to help Skyla achieve these goals and to pay for her treatment.

To donate to help Skyla visit https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/teamskylahatwell

- NZ Herald

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