Red Deer County supports STARS

STARS life-saving flights important to rural communities

STARS air ambulance is a life saver, especially for rural Albertans far from other help.

In recognition of the importance of STARS life-saving flights, Red Deer County agreed on Tuesday to a request for a $2-per-capita donation, which works out to $36,700.

Mayor Jim Wood said STARS is important to the agricultural community.

“When we have something go wrong it’s usually pretty serious,” said Wood.

“I look at this as something that is totally needed.”

STARS Foundation senior municipal relations liaison Glenda Farnden said fundraising is critical to provide the STARS service. Donations account for 79 per cent of STARS’ $38.6-million annual budget. The government covers the remaining 21 per cent or $7 million.

The organization’s biggest fundraiser is its annual STARS home lottery, which is the only fundraiser of its kind in Canada to sell out for the last 23 years. It raised just under $12 million last year.

To provide an ongoing source of funding, STARS has been encouraging rural municipalities to provide per capita funding. Including Red Deer County, 55 of Alberta’s 64 rural municipalities have now pledged their support.

Ten of 14 Central Alberta rural municipalities support STARS.

Farnden said STARS is also approaching urban municipalities for support. Having unanimous rural support will give the charitable organization a stronger voice when it seeks other funding, she said.

In Red Deer County, STARS flies an average of 74 missions a year, which costs about $400,000.

Across the province, just over half of STARS missions involve medical emergencies. Motor vehicle collisions represent 20 per cent of missions, trauma-related incidents 15 per cent and recreational incidents 10 per cent. Industry at two per cent and agricultural at one per cent round out the breakdown.

Farnden said the slumping oil economy has seen donations drop off from that sector. However, demand for STARS has continued to grow with the number of calls up nine per cent last year to more than 1,800 missions.

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