Snowbirds soar over Nanaimo

Famed air demonstration squadron stages event for children's charity

The smiles told the story.Early Wednesday evening, Canada’s internationally renowned Canadian Forces Snowbirds (431 Air Demonstration Squadron) will thrill thousands of onlookers with their aerial display above the skies of Nanaimo.Tuesday afternoon at the Nanaimo Flying Club, the Snowbirds put on an impressive display without even leaving the ground.A special reception party was staged for The CH.I.L.D. Foundation, with more than 100 youngsters and their families invited for a chance to meet the Snowbirds pilots and pose for pictures in the jets.CH.I.L.D. (an acronym for Children with Intestinal and Liver Disorders) is the only charity in Canada that has an ambassador relationship with the Snowbirds. They alternate annual sponsorship shows in Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver.The gathering had special meaning for Nanaimo’s Les Gould (a former longtime circulation manager at the Nanaimo Daily News), who was appointed as Honorary Colonel of the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron in June of 2015.The appointment was the culmination of a 35-year relationship for Gould with the Snowbirds (he was named an “Honorary Snowbird” in 1996, in recognition of his enduring support and promotion of the team.“This is such a special day,” said Gould, flashing a megawatt smile and happily signing autographs for the assembled youngsters. “It’s all about the children. They absolutely love it, and the pilots are so great with them.”Isaac Pine, 12, of Victoria, was excited to be invited to meet the Snowbirds.“It’s really an honour to come,” he said. “It’s something I can brag about to my friends.”Gould, born and raised in Moose Jaw, Sask., said he was introduced to the Snowbirds 35 years ago while working as a representative for Labatt.“I haven’t missed a home opener or year-send show since,” he said. Children suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases  such as ulcerative colitis, and the more serious Crohn’s Disease,  are often confined to their homes, miss an inordinate amount of school time, can not participate in sports, often will not venture too far from a bathroom and will be too timid to mention their discomfort to peers or even close friends. Children can be stricken in their first year of life to adulthood. There is no known cure as of yet.“It’s absolutely wonderful to be working with CH.I.L.D.,” said Gould. “The Snowbirds are very excited to be here in Nanaimo to fly the show and have all the folks here, the administration and all the people that support The CH.I.L.D. Foundation. Just seeing (the children) have a great day, that’s just an honour and a privilege to be able to do that.”The Snowbirds Fly For CH.I.L.D. air show begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday night, over the Nanaimo harbour.