New calendars help kick off STARS fundraiser

Prairie air ambulance service says it has seen an increase in cases lately, flying 56 times in the first half of September

STARS calendars are now available at Viterra grain elevators in Western Canada.

For the last seven years, Viterra has covered the cost of printing the calendars and sells thousands each year at its elevators and other facilities on the Prairies.

“Viterra and STARS have worked together since 2015, and through the strength of our continued partnership, we’re pleased to do our part to help patients share their stories and support STARS in raising awareness of their life saving work,” said Kyle Jeworski, Viterra chief executive officer in North America, for the Sept. 15 launch of the 2022 calendar.

The calendars are the second largest fundraising program for STARS — an air ambulance that operates from bases in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie, Alta.

“(The) calendars not only help raise funds for our missions, but also share the stories of our missions, our Very Important Patients and our staff,” Terri Harris-Strunk, STARS chief fundraising and brand officer, wrote in a tweet.

STARS, based on information from its website, has annual operational costs of about $10 million per base. It receives financial support from government, corporations, foundations, service clubs and individuals.

Jeworski said the fundraiser is a good fit for Viterra.

“Our staff live and work in a lot of remote communities, and we don’t have access to the same response that you would in one of the major cities,” he said.

“STARS just plays an absolutely critical role in saving lives. You’re hard pressed nowadays to find somebody who doesn’t know somebody personally that has utilized STARS.”

Jerowski said although many things nowadays are going digital, the calendars are still top sellers because the target audience is people in rural areas.

“Farmers still, for a lot of purposes, still like to have calendars around,” he said.

“They still like to utilize calendars for various purposes. We haven’t completely digitized that. But the day that does happen, we’ll find another great option that allows us to continue to tell the good STARS story.”

During the news conference, STARS representatives said the service’s cases have increased lately, having flown 56 times already in September. Because of this, they said the fundraiser and the partnership with Viterra has been more important than ever.

Tami Willson, a Saskatchewan resident who was helped by STARS four years ago after her horse threw her and she sustained brain injuries, spoke about the importance of the service.

“It can happen to any one of us or our loved ones at any time. We truly never know,” she said. “By supporting the STARS fundraisers like these calendars, we are helping to keep this vital lifesaving service alive and active in our western provinces.”

Willson was profiled in the calendar for being a recipient of STARS’ help.

“And unfortunately … there’s a lot of people that have been directly impacted by the services and STARS,” Jerowski said.

“And the calendars really every month allows the ability to profile a different VIP (Very Important Patient). And I think that really shows what the service is providing Western Canada.”

Kathie Drackett has been a nurse with STARS for eight years. She said it’s been a very rewarding experience to help people from all over the province.

“It is so diverse, obviously a very different environment than in a hospital. I love it because you go to all parts of southern Saskatchewan and meet people from all areas. And then you get to know people in certain communities because you go there frequently,” Drackett said.

She said the fundraiser not only provides funds to STARS but also spreads awareness about what the service’s role is in Saskatchewan.

“A lot of (people in the larger centres) don’t fully appreciate the need for the transport services because where they are, there’s services available within 25 minutes. As you know, smaller centres, more rural, it’s a very different setup.”

For a couple of years, the air ambulance has been raising capital to replace its fleet of aging helicopters. It is a massive fundraising campaign because one replacement helicopter, a medically equipped Airbus H145, costs about $13 million.

Five of the new helicopters are now part of the STARS fleet, including an H145 that will operate out of Winnipeg.

STARS unveiled its latest helicopter in early September.

At the Winnipeg announcement, Cargill made a $500,000 donation to the STARS fleet renewal campaign and the Kinsmen Club of Winnipeg provided $400,000.

“Safety extends well beyond our employees to our customers and the communities where we operate,” said Jeff Vassart, president of Cargill Ltd.

“We are proud to support STARS and the critical emergency care they provide to rural and remote communities when it’s needed most.”

STARS hopes to add five additional helicopters by mid-2022.

The STARS calendars will be available until Dec. 3 at most Viterra locations or online at