Prairie Post (East Edition)

SW Sask Lions clubs make donations in support of STARS

- By Matthew Liebenberg mliebenber­g@prairiepos­

Two Lions clubs in southwest Saskatchew­an have made donations in support of the life-saving missions of the STARS Air Ambulance service in the province.

The formal cheque presentati­ons took place during a buffet turkey supper hosted by the Swift Current Lions Club, Oct. 20.

Proceeds from this well attended supper helped to increase the amount donated by the Swift Current Lions Club. The event included a presentati­on by Shari Lemon, who is the STARS donor relations and developmen­t officer in Saskatoon.

Her presentati­on highlighte­d the role of STARS helicopter­s to provide rapid emergency medical transporta­tion for critically ill and injured patients and how donations help to save lives.

The Swift Current Lions Club donated $1,400 to STARS and the Cabri and District Lions Club presented a cheque of $1,000.

Swift Current Lions Club President Jim Parsons said afterwards the club tried for the last two years to have this event, but it was not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We finally got her booked for this date and we had set aside in our budget $1,000,” he noted. “Then we thought, if we could sell some tickets and have a nice supper and make $5 on each ticket, we could give her a little more. So we sold 80 tickets and it upped the ante from $1,000 to $1,400.”

He felt the good turnout for the supper was an indication of how people feel about the service provided by STARS.

“People buy STARS lottery at counters, they buy STARS raffle tickets, they donate to STARS,” he said. “It amplifies the fact that this is a very, very important project. We just want to be a part of it and they come into Swift Current. So we should support it.”

STARS has flown more than 50,000 missions across western Canada since 1985. It carried out 3,515 missions from six bases in Alberta, Saskatchew­an and Manitoba during the 2021-22 fiscal year.

There were 1,075 STARS missions in Saskatchew­an during 2021-22 from helicopter bases in Regina and Saskatoon. These missions included 37 flights to Swift Current, three flights to Shaunavon, two missions to Leader, and a flight to Stewart Valley.

Heinz Fildebrand­t, the president of the Cabri and District Lions Club, made the cheque presentati­on to Lemon. He spoke afterwards to the Prairie Post about the club's motivation for this donation.

“STARS is very important from the medical community perspectiv­e, Cabri being isolated as it is,” he said. “We're 25 minutes away from the nearest hospital and it's important that we have access to things. So it's just better for all and it's important for our community.”

The club organizes various fundraisin­g events during the year, including a couple of dances. Their biggest annual fundraiser is a farming project, which helps to provide funds for donations to various causes and groups.

“It's just something that we think we should be doing as responsibl­e members of the area, and so we also contribute to various other clubs,” he said. “When they need money, we try to help out where we can.”

Lemon appreciate­d the opportunit­y to finally attend this event in Swift Current after two years and to share details about STARS.

“In our province you can't go anywhere without knowing someone who has been flown by STARS,” she said afterwards. “It's amazing to hear these stories about patients that we have saved or patients that we have given time with their families. It's just a really inspiring place to work and I'm very lucky that I get to work there. Fundraisin­g is a hard job, but it is the most rewarding job I've ever had.”

The annual cost of STARS operations in Saskatchew­an is $21 million, of which 50 per cent is funded through a service contract with the Government of Saskatchew­an. The remaining $10.5 million must be raised in the community, which means every donation is important.

“Every dollar that we get from our amazing people here in Saskatchew­an means everything to us,” she said. “The one dollars, the five dollars, the ten dollars, all the way up to our largest donations. Every single dollar that we get means that we get to fly our helicopter­s.”

It takes a lot of money to keep these helicopter­s in service and to equip them with the latest medical technology. He presentati­on during the event in Swift Current included a video to highlight the cost to purchase various items.

Helicopter flights are coordinate­d from the STARS Emergency Link Centre, a 24-hour emergency medical communicat­ions centre. The price of a radio console in this centre is $55,000 and the phone system costs $23,000.

A pilot's flight suit costs $325, the radio equipment kit costs $8,000 and the price of night vision goggles is $10,000. Each pilot's initial training costs $55,000 and the cost of recurring training is $22,000.

The initial training of an air medical crew member costs $17,000 and the price of annual training is $4,000. The flight helmets of crew members costs $1,300 each and there is a variety of expensive medical equipment on board each helicopter, for example a ventilator costs $30,000.

The STARS helicopter fleet consists of new state-ofthe-art Airbus H145 helicopter­s, purchased at a price of $13 million each. Ongoing maintenanc­e ensures they are ready for the next mission. The price of a helicopter maintenanc­e stand is $40,000 and maintenanc­e tracking software costs $15,000 per year. The price of a helicopter's engine oil filter is $800.

There has been a longstandi­ng connection between STARS and Lions clubs. A donation of $50,000 from the Lions of Alberta Foundation made it possible to start this air ambulance program in Calgary in 1985, and it was initially named the Lions Air Ambulance Service.

STARS gave a nod to its history with the arrival of one of the first new Airbus H145 helicopter­s in 2019. The last three letters of the official registrati­on marks on the helicopter's exterior are LCI, which stands for Lions Club Internatio­nal.

“That was just to show how much the support from Lions clubs in Alberta, Saskatchew­an and Manitoba have been here for STARS still 30 plus years later,” she said.

 ?? Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post Photo by ?? Swift Current Lions Club Secretary Kristin Hawkins (at left) presents a $1,400 cheque to Shari Lemon, a STARS donor relations and developmen­t officer. Standing in the background is Swift Current Lions Club President Jim Parsons.
Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post Photo by Swift Current Lions Club Secretary Kristin Hawkins (at left) presents a $1,400 cheque to Shari Lemon, a STARS donor relations and developmen­t officer. Standing in the background is Swift Current Lions Club President Jim Parsons.

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