STARS feeling effects of economic downturn

Instead of announcing a sell out, STARS Lottery officials were calling on Albertans to buy tickets on Monday.

STARS patients Rebecca Fillinger and her son

STARS patients Rebecca Fillinger and her son

Instead of announcing a sell out, STARS Lottery officials were calling on Albertans to buy tickets on Monday.

This year about 30 per cent of tickets for the annual lottery were still available as of the end of February.

“Everyone is feeling the effects of the economic downturn and we at STARS are too,” said Jeffery Quick, chief financial officer and executive vice president of STARS Foundation.

“The whole province is experiencing it. We’re no different than any other organization in this province.”

A total of 1,132,950 tickets were printed for the 2016 STARS Lottery that went on sale in January.

“We’re just over 70 per cent sold out right now. In prior years, we have sold out as of this time. We are behind and look to Albertans to help us out this year,” said Quick at a press conference at Red Deer Airport on Monday about ticket sales.

Four furnished grand prize homes, including one in Sylvan Lake worth over $945,000, will be given away in the lottery that raises money for the non-profit air ambulance service. A total of 3,200 prizes valued at more than $5.6 million will be awarded.

“For the first time in over two decades, STARS Lottery is in danger of not selling out. The lottery has a 23-year history in the province and is the only charitable home lottery in Canada to set records by selling out every year since it began.”

Last year the lottery netted about $11 million, or one third of STARS’ operating budget.

STARS operates bases in Alberta in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie to provide specialized emergency medical care and helicopter transportation for critically ill and injured patients.

In 2014-15, STARS flew 1,839 missions in Alberta, including 68 missions in and out of Red Deer.

Quick said as a result of ticket sales, STARS has already looked at cutting back non-essential capital expenses, like renovations to the Calgary base. But air ambulance services will be maintained.

“We continue to operate. We’re here for the patients. We’re an essential service. We, as a not for profit, always run our business prudently so we’re always watching our revenues and expenses so we’ll be fine.”

He said ticket sales started out the same as usual, but slowed down so STARS was now making more $25 and $60 ticket packages available which were in higher demand than more costly packages.

To qualify for the March 18 early-bird draw, tickets must be purchased by midnight Wednesday.

Tickets are available until midnight March 23 unless sold out prior to that date.

STARS patient Rebecca Fillinger asked Albertans to please support STARS because they never know who STARS will assist in their next mission, maybe their loved one.

Both Fillinger and her son Rowan, 6, of Rocky Mountain House, have needed STARS.

In 2009 when Fillinger was 29 weeks pregnant with Rowan, she went into septic shock from an unknown infection that threatened both their lives. STARS flew her to Foothills Hospital in Calgary from the hospital in Rocky.

“It took the doctors two days to stabilize me in order that I could deliver. On April 7, my son was born via C-section, three months early,” said Fillinger, 42.

STARS came to the family’s rescue again in 2011 when Rowan was two years old. He tripped and fell backwards into a bonfire and suffered burns to 70 per cent of his body.

She said Rowan almost died due to complications in ICU and had numerous procedures and an an eight-hour grafting operation.

“He’s going to be seven this year and it if wasn’t for STARS, who saved my life and saved his twice, he wouldn’t be here.”

Fillinger said if Albertans need STARS, they will be there.

“They are a lifeline, especially out in rural communities, and places like Red Deer when you need to get to city centres for specialized emergency care that we have don’t here. Buy your tickets. Support STARS.”

For information or to buy tickets visit