The wayward wheelchair
Little girl finally gets her wheels

by Cheryl Leschasin
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 28/97) - Mary Jane Ukuqtunnuaq, 7, left the Taloyoak airport Thursday afternoon, disappointed for the second time in two weeks. The loaner wheelchair she desperately needs didn't arrive as planned ... again.

The chair was in Cambridge Bay two weeks ago, from where representatives in Taloyoak thought it would be shipped. Instead, it was re-routed to Yellowknife via NWT Air.

Claudio Ardiles, cargo manager at First Air in Yellowknife, said they received the chair Wednesday. It had been routed from London, Ont. to Toronto, Winnipeg, Cambridge Bay, then Yellowknife on the Air Canada system.

First Air expected to ship it to Taloyoak Thursday, but a last-minute weather emergency called for an aircraft switch. No cargo aside from fresh produce was loaded on that plane.

"We'll send the wheelchair tomorrow morning," Ardiles said Thursday. First Air is delivering the chair to Taloyoak free of charge and has also arranged to haul pop-can pull-tabs from the community.

Mary Jane has never been able to walk and has been carried in her mother's amauti since birth. The community began collecting pull-tabs in an effort to raise enough money to buy the little girl a wheelchair.

Philanthropist Ken Chaplin of Ontario offered to lend Mary Jane a wheelchair until Ron Richards of Dream Catcher Medical in Ontario could modify a new chair to be donated to her.

The loaner chair should arrive in Taloyoak Friday afternoon, assuming nothing else goes wrong.