STARS Radiothon Runs April 4 & 5

“There are some words you never want to hear in a medical crisis: too far away, too far to reach. Too far gone.” These are the words that start the press release regarding the third annual Critical Care on the Air Radiothon that is set to hit the airwaves April 4 and 5 on over 39 different provincial radio stations. The purpose behind the radiothon is to raise funds for STARS Air-ambulance. BHP and Saskatchewan Blue Cross are jointly sponsoring the event and are calling out to groups all over the province to get behind the radiothon and come up with creative ways to raise money for the radiothon.

For the organization that raises the most donations, the prize will be an invitation to either the Regina or Saskatoon hanger for a tour of the STARS helicopter, meet the pilots, nurses and paramedics who man the ambulance of the air to see first-hand what the donations support.

Regardless of where you work, play, travel, or live across the prairies, when it comes to the next patient who needs STARS, it’s never too far. STARS was formed in Calgary, Alberta to provide emergency medical care and transport to the critically ill and injured after founder Dr. Gregory Powell, who was working as an emergency room physician at the time, lost a patient: a young mother who died en route to the hospital because of the time it took to transport her by ground from her rural home. Powell had worked as a physician in Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) units during the Vietnam War and knew that a helicopter ambulance service could mean the difference between life and death for critical patients who need immediate assistance and are not close to a major trauma center.

He created a nonprofit organization, Shock Trauma Air Rescue Services Foundation, to provide helicopter rescue and transport in and around Calgary, with the local Lions Club providing seed money. The Foundation created its working arm, Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS), which carried out its first mission on December 1, 1985. Initially named the Lions Air Ambulance Service, that first mission was to transport a critically ill infant to tertiary care in Calgary.

STARS was born from the conviction that no one should go without the care that could save their life. The fundraising model is unique. STARS relies on the support of government to help keep it in the air. But to keep on the cutting edge of critical medical care, STARS looks to the support of the business community, individual donors and volunteers. Please consider supporting the 2023 Critical Care on the Air Radiothon.

Listeners will learn how their support can help save lives, as they hear first-hand stories from patients and their families about their experience with STARS, as well as how the support from STARS allies makes it all possible. Just 17 minutes after the STARS Emergency Link Centre (ELC) began receiving reports from frantic callers about multiple stabbings at James Smith Cree Nation, flight paramedic Brett Cowden and flight nurse Shawn Silver lifted off in a STARS helicopter. It was 7:11 a.m. on Labour Day Sunday, 2022, when the crew touched down near the First Nation’s band office, unsure of what to expect. By 8:08 a.m., the second STARS helicopter and crew from Saskatoon arrived, including Dr. Van De Kamp, who took over from Cowden and Silver as incident command. Dr. Dallas Pearson, STARS medical director for Saskatchewan, noted that several crew members who responded to this incident were part of the response for other multi-casualty incidents (MCIs), including the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and the La Loche school shootings. STARS has been there when Saskatchewan residents have needed them most. A list of participating radio stations that will air the radiothon from 6 am to 6 pm each day, can be found at

The province of Saskatchewan signed an agreement with STARS to establish helicopter air medical service in the province in 2011. In 2012 bases opened in Regina and Saskatoon, and in 2013 the STARS base in Regina became the first in Canada to begin stocking blood to be used for lifesaving transfusions on air medical missions. The STARS Blood on Board initiative has since spread to all of its six bases on the prairies. STARS has come along way from a stretcher and a single monitor. Today they carry ultrasound, portable ventilators and other life-saving equipment, used by highly skilled crews.

STARS is a charitable, non-profit organization funded by allies: visionary individuals, organizations, businesses, event partners and governments. For more than 30 years, STARS success has been grounded in community partnerships and donations. Funding for STARS is derived from government contributions at 42.9%, donations and fundraising at 26.9 %, lottery 20.7 % (SK & AB only), investments and other income 3.9 %, fee for industry service 2.6%, site registration recovery 2.2 %, and calendar sales 0.9 %. These figures came from the 2021 fiscal year as the 2022 fiscal year does not end until March 31.

Creative fundraising is one thing that Saskatchewan residents are good at. Just like the province has historically come behind annual fundraising projects like Telemiracle, and the various Hospital Home Lottos and hockey lottos, STARS is hoping to garner the same enthusiasm from residents.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder