Access Credit Union donated $250,000 to STARS on August 16. (Pictured: Flight Paramedic Grant Therrien, STARS user Amanda Legault, ACU Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Myrna Wiebe, ACU President and CEO Larry Davey, STARS President and Chief Executive Officer Andrea Robertson, STARS user Cohen Hildebrand, MP for Portage-Lisgar Candice Bergen, Pilot Jason Johnson)
On August 16, STARS helicopter touched down outside Boundary Trails Health Centre to deliver good news.
Access Credit Union has pledged a $250,000 donation to STARS, which will be allocated over a five-year period.
“At Access we do a lot in our communities, and we’re always looking for something that is a fit across our organization,” ACU President and CEO Larry Davey said at the announcement event. “We’re very fortunate in the Winkler/Morden area to have a hospital close. It’s not the same in many of our communities. People in those rural communities rely on the support from STARS should an accident or situation arise.”
STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service) is a charitable, non-profit air ambulance organization. It costs around $10 million a year to run, STARS President and Chief Executive Officer Andrea Robertson said. “I think people from ACU, when they look up in the sky, they will know that their money is going directly to save a patient’s life,” she said. “There’s no waste around here.”
Robertson credits not only STARS with saving lives, but everyone from community firefighters to EMS responders. “When it comes to rural living, it takes a community to save a life,” Robertson said. “When you need to get into a major centre fast, there are limited options. What STARS provides is an opportunity to get you there faster if you need that level of service.”
“The community support is just so reassuring,” Robertson added. “It’s the community standing up and saying, ‘We know that this is a needed service.’ That’s the most important reason we’re all here in the health care system, is to make sure we’ve got the whole system sewn together to get you the care when you need it.”
To acknowledge the donation, STARS placed ACU’s logo on the tail fin of their helicopter, making them the first Manitoban organization to have their logo on the helicopter.
“We’re very proud,” Davey said. “We hope our members get to see it in a normal situation and aren’t required to see it in an emergency situation. The sustainability of our communities is very important to Access, and we see this as one small step in helping that sustainability.”
Present at the announcement was Amanda Legault, who was driving to Altona in 2009 when she got into a serious car accident. She has no memory of the accident and very little memory of the beginning of rehab. “I learned over time that I t-boned a semi and broke my neck,” she said. “I had brain trauma, collapsed lungs, a whole slew of things.”
STARS was in the area for flood relief, and the air ambulance took Legault to the nearest hospital. “I wouldn’t have made it if they hadn’t been here,” she said. “I had to learn to walk and talk and eat and think again. I don’t remember most of it, but I remember STARS is the thing that gave me the chance to learn all those things again.”
Legault encourages people to support STARS. “I appreciate it more than I can possibly say, and I know that all of southern Manitoba is very much in [STARS’] debt,” she said.
STARS operates 24/7 out of six bases across Western Canada.
Last year STARS responded to 619 emergencies in Manitoba. 17 of those were in Winkler, 10 in Morden, 6 in Carman and 6 in Altona.
Of the 95 calls STARS received in July of this year, 40 were medical emergencies, 25 were various traumas, 25 were motor vehicle collisions and 5 were recreational (ATVs, etc.).
ACU Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Myrna Wiebe will be participating in the annual Rescue on the Island fundraiser, which takes place on Sept. 14. The day event strands business executives on a deserted island with nothing but a cell phone while they raise money for STARS and complete challenges.