TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Storm Wesley’s horse Drifter sports a sun hat and a scarf while taking part in a Trail Challenge clinic and competition with Wesley’s Archie 4-H Club put on by the Canadian Northern Lights Drill Team as part of the second annual Saddle Up for STARS 24-hour horse relay at the Westoba Credit Union Agricultural Centre of Excellence on Saturday.
Fundraising efforts this weekend for the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) missed its goal by a wide margin.
The second annual "Saddle Up for STARS" event hosted by the Canadian Northern Lights Drill Team raised more than $2,000 with more donations yet to be counted — substantially less than the $5,000 goal the team set out with.
Designed to raise awareness and money for the air ambulance service, the event featured drill team members in the saddle of a moving horse for a full 24-hour period. The event started on Friday at the show ring in the Westoba Credit Union Agricultural Centre of Excellence and ended Saturday afternoon.
Given the negative attention STARS in Manitoba has received recently, team founder Judi Watt said there was some trepidation from a few members about whether to keep raising funds for the non-profit air ambulance service.
"We’ve had a lot of conversations with people about that when we have been fundraising," Watt said.
In March, the province’s auditor general said the government didn’t comply with public tendering principles and policies when it signed a 10-year deal with the Alberta-based air ambulance service. The report also found the province’s value-for-money analysis for STARS was weak and found cases of incomplete manifests, ignored stand-down directions, and unauthorized helicopter landings, the Winnipeg Free Press reported at the time.
"I’ll be honest, some people thought we should change our charity just because of the negative press ... but we chose this group, this group does good," Watt said.
She said the work done by STARS in other provinces solidified the group’s resolve to continue raising money and hopes more community funds will start coming in for the air ambulance service to take the burden off taxpayers.
"It has definitely stimulated a lot of conversation, but given that (the service in) Alberta has been around for so long ... people started seeing how good they were doing and it became a lot more community-funded," Watt said.
"Especially in the rural areas, it takes so long to get help ... knowing what kind of good work they do in Alberta and Saskatchewan, we felt it’s just something that is really needed in this province."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 12, 2014