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Chris Elgar, left, will join fellow pilot Dave McElroy to fly around the world in 80 days, raising funds for autism research.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Donors: Dave McElroy and Chris Elgar

The gift: Raising $250,000 by flying around the world

The cause: Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children

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The reason: To fund research into autism

Dave McElroy has been flying airplanes as a hobby for more than 40 years and he has travelled extensively in North America and Europe. But he has never taken a plane across an ocean, something he is about to do several times this summer as part of a fundraising venture he has launched with his friend Chris Elgar.

"It was always an ambition to fly the North Atlantic," said Mr. McElroy, 66, who retired last year as a senior executive at Norbord Inc. "I thought, 'I have more free time coming up, why not just keep going, not just across the North Atlantic. Why not just keep going all the way around the world?'"

On May 12, Mr. McElroy will set off from Toronto in a modified four-passenger aircraft and spend the next three months travelling across every ocean, making stops in several countries along the way.

He and Mr. Elgar, 66, hope to raise $250,000 for Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. They are also raising $250,000 for an air ambulance service in Scotland where Mr. McElroy has lived for the past several years.

Mr. Elgar, a private pilot and former owner of a Burlington, Ont.-based conveyor belt maker, MWE Belting Co. Ltd., is only going on part of the trip and the two are offering the extra seat to anyone who wants to join Mr. McElroy for a leg in return for a donation.

Mr. McElroy got the idea for the fundraiser after visiting the autism research facility at Sick Kids. He has two grandchildren with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, and was so impressed with the hospital's program he offered to do the charity flight.

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The two men have spent a year planning the trip and Mr. McElroy can't wait to finally take off from the Toronto Island airport. "It will be the greatest adventure of my life," he said.

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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