ESTEVAN - An Estevan area resident was a star for the STARS Air Ambulance's Rescue on the Prairie on Thursday. Ryan Saxon was among the participants in the fundraiser for STARS, and almost doubled his individual goal for the day.
Altogether, the four Saskatchewan business and community leaders raised a total of over $427,000.
Saxon, president of Border Insulators and R&R Tank and Equipment Rentals, was able to raise $90,747 for STARS, thanks to the support of local individuals, the business community and other donors.
The goal for Saxon and each of the other participants was $50,000.
"My expectation was to raise the $50,000 that they wanted, they gave us a goal of $50,000. And that was my goal as well, to try and raise that. Just with the whole downturn in the economy and whatnot, what's going on. And it was overwhelming, everybody else supported STARS. It was unbelievable to get that extra $40,000 over my personal goal of what we were supposed to achieve," Saxon shared.
Saxon said STARS reached out to him a couple of years ago. While he didn't have any doubts about partaking in an exciting and challenging event, the pandemic put the annual Rescue on the Prairie on hold last year. Finally, in 2021, the businessman was able to try himself in the fundraiser.
Joining Saxon were Jordan Clarke, the sales director for Saskatchewan and Manitoba for Ritchie Bros.; Wayne Morksy, the board chair of REAL; and Corey Leonard, the chief operating officer of Western Sales.
Rescue on the Prairie participants were airlifted by helicopter to a remote location outside of Regina Thursday morning. To secure their rescue and return to civilization, they needed to raise at least $50,000 each using their mobile phones and personal networks. The public was encouraged to support the participants by donating online.
"We had to do a few challenges throughout the day. And in between certain challenges we had to phone and try and raise money from people and different businesses, people in the agriculture sector and oilfield sector," Saxon explained.
"The response was excellent there with everyone's campaign, for both the people from around the southeastern parts of Saskatchewan and everybody else around the whole province of Saskatchewan."
Each individual and their STARS crew partner participated in a series of challenges, including a flight readiness race; simulated medical and aviation scenarios; a fundraising challenge to see who could raise the most money over the phone in 30 minutes; and a timed scavenger hunt through the remote site.
"In a half an hour, we had the challenge to see who raised the most money between the four participants. There was a little over $98,000 raised at that particular time, and then throughout the day, it was a total of just over $427,000," Saxon said.
Winners of the challenges received sponsored cash prizes to go toward their individual fundraising totals.
"Every time we won in a challenge, we would get another $2,500 or $3,000. So I won two challenges, me and my partner Darcy. And an extra $5,000 was contributed to my overall funding," Saxon said.
Saxon said the challenges weren't too difficult, but he did have adrenaline kick in during some of them and the whole process was definitely interesting.
Participants didn't know what kind of challenges they would have to go through, but they could fundraise in advance. Some donors were reached ahead of time, others saw the news on social media about him participating and reached out to let him know they would like to support the cause as well. Some Saxon approached on the day of the fundraiser in an effort to raise as much money as possible.
"We talked to a bunch of different businesses and clients that we work with in our industry that we work in the oil side, and then lots of people in the agriculture side as well, and local business too," Saxon said.
The opportunity to learn more about STARS' operations, hands-on, through the challenges enabled some of the participants to gain a deeper appreciation for the organization and its importance to the safety and well-being of communities across Western Canada.
"It was a good experience. I got to meet a lot of new people, see what they do when they're in their rescues, and how their day-to-day operation works. It was quite interesting," Saxon said.
He added that in his case donations and pledges ranged from $50-$5,500, and he is very grateful for all the support.
"Putting out a big thank you to the STARS Foundation and what they do for everybody in the province of Saskatchewan. And a big thank you to all the people there that supported me in raising this $90,000 to contribute it to STARS, and that's from southeast business, family, friends, farmers and the oil industry. Everybody in the southeast corner that contributed a big thank you goes out to them."
After government support, STARS must raise 50 per cent of the funds needed to run the Regina and Saskatoon bases. Raising $10.5 million annually is achieved through corporate sponsorship, fundraising and community support.