HUMBOLDT — A custom-built Ford Mustang’s journey to raise money for the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) began at a Humboldt car dealership.
On June 3, the collectible vehicle, transported in a specially-decaled trailer featuring the project’s celebrity ambassadors, rolled into Discovery Ford. It will serve as the centrepiece of a road show organized by the Pegasus Project – a group of automotive enthusiasts that support the work of STARS and other first responders – that will stop at around 30 communities across the province.
In January 2022, the vehicle will be sold at the world-famous Barrett-Jackson charity auction in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“Today marks the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication by so many and signals the beginning of the exciting adventure of sharing this project with Saskatchewan,” said Vaughn Wyant, a co-chair with the Pegasus Project. “It’s an amazing car for an incredible cause, and we’re both passionate and proud to see it here in Humboldt.”
The road show will now only raise money for STARS, but for local first responders as well.
Wyant was involved in a similar effort in 2014, where a custom-built ‘Snakebit’ F-100 was sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction for $450,000 to raise money for the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan.
After that effort, Wyant said he was approached to do it again. By that time, the April 6, 2018 Humboldt bus collision had happened and Wyant said he knew that STARS had to be the recipient of their efforts.
“The bus crash is not why we're raising money for STARS, but the bus crash is the genesis of it.”
Wyant said about $2 million has been raised, with $500,000 contributions being made by Conexus Credit Union and MNP.
“We're really excited about today and we just think the summer is going to raise us lots of money. I’d love to finish the summer saying we're at $3 million and then what's it going to be? Maybe $4 million.”
Kaleb Dahlgren is one of the celebrity ambassadors. The Humboldt bus collision survivor was at the event, signing his book Crossroads, which will have some of its proceeds go to STARS.
He said he doesn’t think STARS gets enough credit, so he wanted to generate awareness.
“The sad part about it was that I didn't even know about the services they provided until I needed it,” he said.
“I think now today in our world, we need to shine the light on things that truly matter and I think there's nothing more valuable than a second chance at life, so for me this was something that was a no-brainer, and I wanted to be a part of this project.”
The other celebrity ambassadors supporting the effort are actor Kim Coates and former Saskatchewan-born NHL players Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn, Tyler Bozak and Jayden Schwartz.
STARS is replacing its fleet of BK117 and AW139 aircraft with nine new, medically-equipped Airbus H145 helicopters at a cost of $13 million each. The air ambulance organization has taken out loans to buy the aircraft and is now raising money to pay off the loans.
Andrea Robertson, STARS’ CEO, said the project is a demonstration of Saskatchewan spirit: where people see a need, come together and come up with a solution.
She said they were flying in aircraft that were purchased in 1985.
“Truthfully, people can fly aircrafts for a really long time, but that the people that made them were no longer making the parts, so when something goes wrong, you don't want it to be at three o'clock in the morning when we need to come, and we don't have a part available,” she said.
“We went on this huge massive undertaking of trying to figure out when did we need to replace, and the drop dead date for replacement is 2022.”
Robertson said they should be flying in the new aircraft in a matter of weeks.
Scott Moe, Saskatchewan’s premier, was also at the event.
“This is really what Saskatchewan is all about: people coming together to support one another, to support the services that are so important in our communities across this province like STARS and the service that that provides to people and to families,” he said.
The premier said the province has budgeted $12 million this year for STARS.
“Today I would offer you this promise: our government will continue to support STARS as long as we have the privilege of holding office in this province, and you can take that home with you.”
Morgan Gobeil, another survivor of the collision, and his family were also at the event. Lonnie Gobeil, Morgan’s father, recounted how STARS provided the swift transportation to the medical personnel he needed. He also told the audience that Morgan continues to recover and improve each and every day.
“The reason we are here today is STARS,” he said.
“STARS impacts lives. This project will make sure that the mission of doing what's best for [very important patients] will remain the focus moving into the future, [using] the best people and the most up-to-date fleet possible.
Ryan Gobeil, Morgan’s brother, will be driving the trailer across the province this summer.
“We are committed to doing our part to ensure STARS remains in the sky to help others in need when the unthinkable happens,” he said in a press release.
As for the centrepiece car itself, it’s a custom-built 1968 Ford Mustang 427 Coupe.
“In the collector world Mustangs are, on the domestic side, probably the most collectible vehicle that you can get,” Wyant said. “This would be termed a resto mod, which means it's a modified restoration. It's a modern car in an old chassis.”
Wyant said the car will have the customary noise, but will drive much better than an original '68 Mustang with its modern suspension, electronics and fuel injection. He said that people collect these cars and will pay a lot of money for them.