STARS – Rebecca and Rowan Fellinger stand with STARS chief financial officer Jeff Quick during the media scrum held at the Red Deer Airport Monday.

STARS Lottery in danger of not selling out

One of Alberta’s most needed emergency service societies is in desperate need of Alberta’s help.

One of Alberta’s most needed emergency service societies is in desperate need of Alberta’s help.

For the first time in 22 years the STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society) lottery is in danger of not selling out of their annual lottery tickets.

In previous years lottery tickets have sold out by this time. With the economic downturn, this is the first time in the lottery’s history tickets have not sold out yet.

Sylvan Lake is the location of one of the current STARS’ lottery homes. Without selling the entire lottery tickets financial cutbacks will have to be made.

STARS chief financial officer Jeff Quick spoke at a recent media scrum held at the Red Deer Regional Airport. He said one third of the STARS operating budget was funded by the lottery last year.

“In other words the lottery funds one base in the province,” Quick said.

He said it is the only charity home lottery in Canada that has set records by selling out ever since it began 22 years ago.

STARS is a very important not for profit organization that transports people in desperate need of emergency care via helicopter. Quick emphasized how they were making sure every dollar counted. He also highlighted how emergencies don’t slow down even in the economic downturns.

“The reality is emergencies never take a break,” Quick said. “We’re flying on average five missions a day.”

STARS flies from bases in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie. Last year STARS flew 1,839 missions in Alberta and approximately 270communities were served. In Red Deer 68 missions were flown in and out.

STARS is there to serve Albertans 24 hours a day and seven days a week Quick said.

“We’ve been here for the last 30 years and we will continue to be here for as long as people need us,” he said.

Currently the lottery tickets are just over 70 percent sold out.

Even if the rest of the tickets aren’t sold, STARS will continue to operate.

“We’re here for the patients. We’re an essential service. We as a not-for profit organization always run our business prudently. We are always watching our revenues and our expenses,” Quick said.

The lack of lottery sales may mean that the organization will have to cut back in areas they can, such as capital expenditures and non-essential expenses, such as renovations to the base in Calgary.

“It needs it once in awhile but as a not for profit we don’t invest in those things if we don’t need too,” Quick said.

“We don’t cut back on our essential services pilots and air medical crew and meeting the needs of the patients,” he added

The province is already funding the organization and Quick said the province is the largest supporter in Alberta.

“We already get funding from them but we also get funding from Albertans too,” Quick said.

Rebecca Fillinger and her son Rowan were both there to share their stories on how STARS helped save their lives.

Fillinger was 29 weeks pregnant with her son the first time she received help from STARS.

The first time she received help she felt a bit odd and then quickly become sick.

“I was very weak, disorientated and going into labour 3 months pre-mature,” Fillinger said.

This was due to an infection putting her into septic shock. It was no longer just her life in danger but her baby’s life as well.

STARS was then called to transport them to another hospital that specializes in premature babies.

“I don’t remember much of that day since I was pretty much out of it, but I do remember a nurse coming in and saying STARS is coming and knowing that this is very serious,” she said. “Once we landed and I was taken to labour and delivery it was determined that the infection that was putting me into shock was actually surrounding the baby.”

Doctors spent two days stabilizing Fillinger so she could deliver her son. She delivered her son three months early via C-section.

The second time using STARS services was when her son accidentally tripped and fell backwards into a bonfire. He was two-years-old at the time and his body was 70 per cent burned.

“I cannot describe to you what it was like to watch my husband roll him on the ground and put out the flames or hear his screams and cries,”Fillinger said.

After calling 911 they arrived at the Rocky Mountain House Hospital, but Rowan needed to be transported to another facility and STARS was called.

Fillinger said she remembers medical personnel working to try and stabilize Rowan for his trip.

“Just as they were getting ready to leave one of the local doctors came out and very quietly looked down at me and said ‘children this age and this size don’t survive this’,” she said. “As I watched STARS take off and fly away I had the fear that I had just given my baby his last kiss goodbye.”

After the accident, Rowan nearly died due to complications in the ICU.

“If it wasn’t for STARS who saved my life, and they saved his twice, for that they will always hold a special place in my heart,” she said.

To help make the lottery tickets affordable the prices have been adjusted. Tickets are $25 each, three for $60, six for $100 and 18 for $250.

March 23 is the final deadline with the main draw on April 14. Tickets can be purchased online at starslotteryalberta.ca or by calling 1-888-880-0992.

reporter@sylvanlakenews.com