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Sky's the limit - Charity wins at SkyLink

Travel Courier's cover It's summer and cell phones are ringing all across the nation's golf courses. In the travel industry, deals are done between drives and rates are negotiated as putts are perpetrated. Dozens of industry golf classics entice company execs, suppliers, preferred partners and/or members out for a little appreciation as well as som R&R.

One of the staples of the summer circuit is the annual SkyLink tournament in Toronto, which entered its eighth year this year. And, while the event was originally designed as a thank-you for SkyLink suppliers, over the years it has taken on a higher purpose: raising funds for charity.

This year, SkyLink raised $30,000 for the tele-health program at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. Company chairman Surjit Babra notes proudly that every penny of the corporate donations made went to the hospital.

"The golf tournament has two functions," says Babra: "To say thanks to the airlines and our suppliers; it's a get-together like Christmas. But, when you're getting together you might as well do something..."

So popular is the event that players actually fly in from across Canada and the US for it. And it is appreciated.

SkyLink's contribution has been exceedingly important in bringing telemedicine into the realm of mainstream medicine, " says Dr. Robert Filler, a pioneer of the program, which allows hospital professionals to educate and treat patients residing in remote areas via video and teleconferencing.

Babra says SkyLink was motivated towards its altruistic mission (it has also sponsored such other charitable endeavours as camps in Rwanda and United Nations charities) by its exposure in business ventures around the world.

For example, SkyLink Aviation, one of the SkyLink Group of Companies, provided helicopter support in the recent war in Afghanistan.

"We're all over the world... and we come from all over the world," says Babra of SkyLink, " and we've seen a lot of misery. When we return to Canada, this is the most beautiful country in the world... So we try to return something; we're fortunate people!"

SkyLink Group
"SkyLink is a complicated company. Even people who work for SkyLink don't know entirely what it does. But it's successful," says SkyLink director Ken Taylor, best known as the former Canadian ambassador who helped shelter Americans in Iran during the Islamic revolution.

Toronto-based SkyLink boasts no less than 10 divisions that span the aviation gamut from cargo to security. The company is best know in the travel retail sector as a consolidator or airline tickets, as well as the proprietor of tour operators SkyLink Holidays and Tourcan.

New SkyLink projects include the development of a booking engine for travel agents, to be launched Sept. 1, and a marketing program for retail agencies.

"We are a solution [to travel agents]," says Babra, "and as long as we are useful to them, we'll be in business."

And as long as they are in business, less fortunate souls will continue to benefit.

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