A Very Special Flight – “Soaring to New Heights…”

This last Saturday during our Human External Cargo (“HEC”) re-certification training with Valley Helicopters, we had the opportunity to take our friend Kyle, his mom Kristen, and Kyle’s service dog Clover up for a rotation on the helicopter longline. Kyle, who loves North Shore Rescue (and Batman), lives with autism and has recently made tremendous leaps in his journey.



While we were excited to be able to get Kyle and his family up with us as training subjects/patients, this flight served a broader purpose for both the team, and the Autism community. The reality is that we respond to calls for subjects with all ranges of abilities and backgrounds, and the opportunity to see how our equipment can accommodate different needs in a controlled training environment is invaluable. In this case, we were able to test out a specially built and certified restraint lanyard for small subjects,  and we were able to fly in a controlled environment with a subject who is hyper responsive to environmental stimulus, in conjunction with his service dog. Ultimately, it was a tremendous success, and we learned a lot in the process!

Interestingly, Kristen, who a longtime supporter of NSR, has assisted our team in other ways too. She has been critical in revamping how we respond to missing persons calls involving subjects with autism (and other special needs). With her assistance we have begun to incorporate new behaviour profiles into our search techniques, and have implemented training for our first responder volunteers. This is a tremendous example of the interplay between different community groups, to deliver comprehensive services to the people of the North Shore (and more broadly, the province).

Following the training, Kristen wrote the team a letter, and with her permission, I am posting it here:

Soaring to New Heights…

“Everything is impossible until somebody does it.” ~ Bruce Wayne

My heart is brimming with gratitude and overflowing with pride as North Shore Rescue’s HEC Re-certification on Saturday afternoon, became far more than a long line training exercise.

For my little son Kyle, his service dog NSD Clover and I, Saturday represented triumph over adversity and became an unexpected and joyful celebration of our journey with Autism. The realization that the sky truly is the limit because of the fact our community cares.

Under the brilliant blue sky and warm summer sun, Group 6 comprising of Subject 3, 4, & 5 lifted off for a ride of a lifetime with treasured friend and NSR Team Leader, Mike Danks and HEC Technician Dale Weidmann. As we soared together, high above tree line and hovered over mountain tops, our autism and search and rescue communities united. My very own little superhero loving each and every moment of hang’n with the guys. Blissfully unaware of his teachings and monumental achievement of dangling from a helicopter with comfort and ease.

Much like North Shore Rescue and back country thrill seekers, who should ALWAYS be prepared with the 10 life saving essentials, Autism parents have their own survival guide to assist them with navigating our ‘Grind’ and trail blazing initiatives. Hope, love, determination, resilience, advocacy, strategic planning, commitment, and passion are always in our cache. Like NSR, we as special needs parents, are on call 24/7.

I am humbled and I am honoured to have been given a glimpse into the SAR world. To see first hand where our NSR team goes when customers present.

Thank you Mike and NSR for working in tandem with our autism community and displaying leadership, initiative and compassion. Compassion and commitment as community leaders who are ready and able to provide a safety net for EVERYONE! Not just for those in trouble in the back country, but readiness for important emergency urban search and rescues as well.

From this tired Autism Mama, thank you for giving me/us the luxury of knowing some of our community’s finest have stepped up to help. It is because of your willingness to listen and learn, that you already have. For allowing us as parents and family members, the luxury of coming up for air. To really take in that first life saving breath knowing that NSR as VOLUNTEER first responders are in our corner. The knowledge that good people on the front lines who are willing, capable and not afraid of helping (if necessary) has already lightened our very heavy load in ways you can not even imagine.

To Jeff Yarnold and Derek Thomas thank you for giving me the ‘Boost’ I never thought I needed and to Valley Helicopters for providing a safe, smooth and thrilling ride.

To Mike and his wife Amy, for always being in my corner.

To NSR, thank you for being members of our autism community, for being amazing community ambassadors and for being world class first responders. We are so proud to call you ours.


Kristen Jenkinson