The single biggest fundraiser for the province’s lone medical helicopter response service has never let it down.
And the hope is Albertans will ‘Show The Love’ for STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service) and purchase tickets in the organization’s annual lottery.
As of Feb. 16, the 24th annual STARS lottery was sitting at 65 per cent sold, a figure that leaves the organization a bit nervous and unsettled considering the lottery is usually more than 85 per cent sold by this time.
Mike Lamacchia, vice-president of operations for Alberta/Saskatchewan, explained STARS understands the situation many Albertans are facing, but are hopeful the public will pull through just like last year. In 2016, the lottery came extremely close to not selling out for the first time ever, but an appeal in the final days pushed the numbers over the finish line.
“We know there are many that simply can’t afford to buy tickets this year, but even for just one $25 ticket, it helps support our single largest fundraiser bring in $11 million or about one third of our annual budget,” he said.
“That equates to operating one base, such as Edmonton that serves the Ponoka region, for one year. That’s significant.”
Lamacchia added that 17 missions were made to the Ponoka area in 2016, though not always for accident scenes. In fact, a large majority of flights made STARS helicopters has at its three Alberta bases — Edmonton, Calgary and Grande Prairie — are for what are termed inter-facility transfers. That means patients are picked up at a health care facility or local hospital and taken to larger centres for more advanced care and treatment.
He stated that sometimes those missions are for patients that were taken from scenes by ground ambulance to the hospital, while other times it’s for patients that take a turn for the worse during treatment and need to be quickly transferred for more specialized medical care.
“Since we began the ‘Show the Love’ campaign, there has been a moderate uptake in ticket sales and that’s great to see and we really appreciate the support of Albertans,” Lamacchia said.
“Right now, our LuckyStars 50/50 is virtually sold out and the early bird deadline of March 1 is approaching fast. The final deadline for tickets is March 22, leaving a month left and we’d just like to encourage loyal Albertans to buy tickets if they can.”
A pair of VIPs (very important patients) also expressed how vital STARS and the public support of the lottery is to many Albertans.
VIPs Hugh Watson and Marcus Hirschfield were at the ‘Show the Love’ launch and spoke about how integral STARS was in maintaining the love in their lives.
“I wouldn’t have been able to propose to the love of my life, Jacqueline, if it weren’t for STARS,” said Watson, who was critically injured in an ATV-related incident and carried by STARS in 2009.
Hirschfield, who was airlifted after his RCMP patrol car was hit at highway speed on Valentine’s Day in 2013, stated it was the community support for STARS that made his rescue possible.
“I’ve lived in Alberta for the past 10 years and know how much Albertans love their province. I’ve seen members of this community go through fires, floods and disasters and stand strong. STARS is an essential part of the community that we love, and our love for Alberta compels us to help members of our community in need,” he said.
Tickets can be purchased by going to www.starslotteryalberta.ca and are available for $25 each, 3 for $60, 6 for $100 and 18 for $250.