Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic May 17, 2016 - 4:00 pm

Nunavut woman giving away 40 plane tickets to worthy northerners

"I’ve got some real honest to goodness responses, people are looking beyond themselves"

LISA GREGOIRE
Sarah Maniapik at Iqaluit's airport: the Iqaluit resident is looking to give away 40 First Air plane tickets to Kuujjuaq and Montreal that she won in a First Air contest celebrating the 40th anniversary of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Got a worthy recommendation? She wants to hear about it. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)
Sarah Maniapik at Iqaluit's airport: the Iqaluit resident is looking to give away 40 First Air plane tickets to Kuujjuaq and Montreal that she won in a First Air contest celebrating the 40th anniversary of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Got a worthy recommendation? She wants to hear about it. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)

More than 500 people entered a First Air contest to win 40 return airplane tickets but only one person entered with an idea to launch a contest of her own.

And she won.

“I really didn’t think I would win it, to be honest. It was like, ‘Holy cow!’” said Sarah Maniapik, reached in Iqaluit May 17. “It’s going to be pretty amazing to give away 40 tickets, that’s for sure.”

It’s making her feel a little like a spring-time Santa Claus.

When Maniapik saw links on Facebook to First Air’s 40th anniversary of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and their plan to celebrate by giving away 40 airplane tickets, at first she just ignored it.

But for some reason, she kept going back to it and eventually, in early December 2015, she decided to enter the contest.

But instead of just linking 40 friends as the contest suggested, she pitched an idea to hold her own contest and give the tickets away to strangers in need — people who have been away from family for years, for instance, or people who want to visit frail elders or the sick, who cannot travel.

The criteria to get one of Maniapik’s tickets are wide, but the routes themselves are specific. Flights are Iqaluit to Kuujjuaq return, or Montreal to Kuujjuaq return only.

If, for instance, someone wanted to go from Montreal to Iqaluit, that would be considered two flights of the 40 available. And Maniapik is not ruling out combining two flights if it’s a worthy cause.

So, if you know of someone in need of a free flight, or if you think you yourself are worthy, you can contact Sarah Maniapik to tell her why. You have until May 25 to do so.

She said she may employ the help of her daughter or a friend to make the final selections, once all the entries are in.

So far, about 10 people have contacted her with their recommendations.

“Oh yes, it’s been very interesting. I’ve got some real honest to goodness responses. People are looking beyond themselves,” said Maniapik, manager of the Canada Nunavut Business Service Centre and mother of two.

“I didn’t take into account what it was going to feel like when I got these submissions. It’s been pretty amazing. It feels awesome. I’m happy and proud.”

Maniapik doesn’t want to give away any secrets but she said one person suggested a flight for a man to go visit his frail wife down south and another has suggested bringing up a health practitioner to offer free services in Iqaluit in exchange for the free flight.

Someone even nominated Putulik Qumaq, a homeless man in Montreal, originally from Cape Dorset, who gave his jacket away to a young teenager this past January.

Qumaq didn’t know that he had been approached as part of a social experiment to find out how people would react to a 14-year-old panhandler. His act of selflessness was caught on film as part of that experiment.

Maniapik is hoping people get creative with their pitches — schools and organizations, for instance, might consider bringing up a guest speaker, coach or musician. Maniapik is open to any and all suggestions.

She’s still trying to work out the details. For instance, some people who nominate others might want to stay anonymous. She doesn’t want to breach those people’s privacy, she said.

Also, she doesn’t think the tickets expire but First Air has asked for a two-week notice for each ticket’s booking so people who need to travel immediately might not be in luck.

If you know someone you think is worthy of a free ticket, and you have a good story to tell, email Maniapik at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or fax your ideas to 1-877-499-5299.

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