Heroic Leichhardt man

Mark Breen has volunteered over 100 free drives for Angel Flight

This Leichhardt resident worked in the public service for over 40 years. Over the decades, Mark Breen worked for NSW Rail, the Commonwealth public service and for the local government.  When he retired, Mark decided sitting around at his local pub or club wasn’t what he wanted to do with his time. Instead, he volunteered to drive for Angel Flight, a charity which provides free flights for country people needing to attend medical appointments in the city. The organisation’s flights are conducted by volunteer pilots in their own aircraft, with volunteer drivers providing transport in the capital cities between the airports and the hospitals.

Now in his 60s, Mark has driven over 100 patients and says he finds the opportunity incredibly “rewarding”.

“This particular activity appealed because it helps those who dealing with health problems who also have to battle with the distance from their health provider,” he says.

Mark says his very first drive with Angel Flight will stay with him forever. His patient was a three-month-old girl from western NSW who was suffering from a brain tumour. Her mother used Angel Flight to bring the little girl to the children’s hospital for ongoing treatment in the hope of reducing and removing the tumour. Unfortunately, Mark heard a few years later that this girl had passed on.

Another moment that has stuck out to Mark came when he attended the Illawarra Air Show for Angel Flight.

“We spoke to people about the activities the organisation undertakes and had a bucket for donations,” he says. “I will never forget a little girl about 8 whose mother explained to her what Angel Flight does.

“She then came to us and donated her own special $2 coin – one of those with the coloured rings that she had been treasuring.”

Mark says the only challenges that arise come from the stress of dealing with the “horrid Sydney traffic”.

The local hero says he would recommend the organisation to anyone with some spare time on their hands. “There is no expectation that you make any particular commitment,” he says. “Some drivers and pilots well do a handful a month while others may only do one of two a year.”