Moosomin Elks donate $5,000 to STARS Air Ambulance

January 24, 2023, 3:38 pm
Kevin Weedmark

Donation to STARS The Moosomin Elks Lodge presented $5,000 last week to STARS Air Ambulance. From left are Ron Potter of the Moosomin Elks, STARS Clinical Operations Manager Darcy McKay, STARS Community Engagement Officer Kathy Skomar, and Wayne Hopkins of the Moosomin Elks, who was once a patient on a STARS Air Ambulance.

“It’s a lifesaver. It’s as simple as that,” Moosomin’s Wayne Hopkins says of STARS Air Ambulance.

“I had a heart attack. That was eight years ago. STARS took me into Regina They treated me excellent. They’re professionals and they treat you accordingly.”

Ron Potter of the Moosomin Elks said he knew he wanted to support STARS as soon as he got the request.

“We got a letter from STARS and I thought that’s something we should support. When I took it to the meeting, everybody was quite interested in it and we thought we should be donating some money, and that’s when we came up with the figure of $5,000.

“Because they basically saved Wayne’s life by getting him there so fast, everyone knows how important it is.”

Potter says the funds were raised by the Elks in the community.

“It’s money we’ve raised in the community, and we like to put it back in the community, but this is a huge community service. The average age in our lodge is almost 70, and we feel this is a service that is needed in our town and surrounding area, where we raise our funds, so it was a unanimous vote. Everyone was in agreement that this is something we should be supporting.

“As Elks we always want to support the community,” added Hopkins.

Darcy McKay, Clinical Operations Manager for STARS, grew up in Moosomin. He said support such as that shown by the Elks is important to STARS.

“It’s very important. To operate both bases, Saskatoon and Regina, it costs about $21 million annually,” he says. “The government kicks in 50 per cent of that, so we basically need to fundraise $10 million, and then we get some from the calendars. It’s like the old saying how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. $10 million is a lot to fundraise, and this is a bite out of that elephant. It makes a huge benefit of that.”

“Every donation counts,” adds Kathy Skomar, community engagement officer for STARS.

“Every donation makes a difference.”

“We get about $2.5 million to $3 million from the calendars, and we get a lot of donations from industry but we get a lot of donations from groups like this and mom and pop, grandma and grandpa, people who have been affected by STARS,” says McKay. “A lot of it is people saying you helped me, you picked up my friend, now I want to help you. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes they come out of nowhere, they come with a donation, and they tell a story that’s just fantastic.

“It’s good to see patients that we’ve picked up and see that they’re doing well.”

McKay says STARS is updating and upgrading its fleet. “We’ve had to renew our fleet. We used to fly the BK117. Now we’ve upgraded to the H145. Our helicopter in Regina was at the Calgary Olympics in 1988. It got to the point that it was tough to find parts for it, so we had no choice but to upgrade the fleet. We have three helicopters in Saskatchewan. There’s one in Regina, one in Saskatoon, and we share the third, so if one helicopter is down for maintenance, that third one will take its place. A new machine costs $13 million.”

STARS helps thousands of patients each year. Skomar says there were 1,075 flights in Saskatchewan in 2021-22.

McKay has been with STARS since the beginning. “I was hired back in 2011, we started education that year then we started operations in 2012. It’s the best organization I’ve ever worked for. You get to make a difference in people’s lives, and they give you the tools to do that.”

“I’ve only been there since August, so I’m fairly new,” says Skomar, “but I’m just amazed at the generosity that the people in this province have. Even if you are from Regina or Saskatoon you know someone who has used STARS and you see the importance of it and how it helps everybody. It’s really important to the province.”