HALO Air Ambulance smashes fundraising record, announces lottery with provincial review still looming

It’s been more than a year since HALO Air Ambulance called on the province for funding to keep its medevac program in the air, and since then, public and private donations have been overwhelming.

Read more: HALO Air Ambulance calls on province for funding to keep program in-flight

CEO Paul Carolan says the announcement of HALO’s uncertain future was not one that the organization took lightly, and he was thrilled to see the response from southern Albertans.

“The community believes very much in this program and believes that it should be available to them, so they rallied,” said Carolan.

“I think as long as we are very clear about it being crisis fundraising and acknowledging that, we actually probably will have a record-setting year in 2020.”

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Read more: ‘HALO is on life-support’: Medicine Hat-based air ambulance program sounds alarm to province

The Medicine Hat-based medevac service has relied solely on public and private donations since its inception in 2007. Since alerting the public to its dire situation last spring, HALO shattered its previous 12-month high for fundraising.

“In 2019 I think we ended up somewhere around $1.6 million in fundraising accomplished, and in 2020 — drum roll — we will double that,” Carolan said.

“That puts us in the best position we’ve ever been in at this time of year — early in 2021 — and we’re planning full medevac operations with the twin engine helicopter well into quarter three of this year,” he said.

But the outpouring of support hasn’t brought HALO completely out of the woods, with the organization still waiting for results from the province’s Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) review.

In June, the province told Global News that results were expected in the fall.

Carolan says he was told by Health Minister Tyler Shandro that the initial information given to him didn’t provide him with all of the answers he was looking for, so a supplemental review was requested.

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HALO Air Ambulance calls on province for funding to keep program in-flight – Sep 5, 2019

A statement from Alberta Health on Thursday said:

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“The Supplemental Review of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) is nearly complete and is expected to be presented to Minister Shandro in the coming weeks. Further announcements regarding HEMS, including funding models, will be considered once the minister has received the report.”

Read more: HALO Air Ambulance to continue medevac service thanks to community support

Carolan says he’s felt encouraged by dialogue with province, including a meeting with the health minister as recently as December, and he hopes the results of the review will mean future funding for HALO.

“What we’re hoping for is that the goal posts are set, and that organizations like us can be told, ‘This is what you need to accomplish in order to have ongoing operational funding,’” he said.

“And then we can go to work to make sure that we can do that.”

Read more: Crash site to hospital in 14 minutes: How HALO helicopters are saving and changing lives in southern Alberta

In the meantime, HALO is taking its fate into it’s own hands, launching an initiative this week that could raise more than $200,000 for the organization.

The 2021 HALO Cattle er’ Cash Lottery was announced on Wednesday, in partnership with Highline Angus; a commercial cattle company based in Cypress County.

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“One of the questions we answered quite regularly from people, from our supporters, was, ‘Why don’t you have a lottery?’” Carolan said. “So getting something that was really, really connected to our roots and connected to our history was a big focus for us.”

“Agriculture, farming and ranching have been huge, huge supporters of HALO since our very beginning times.”

Tickets at $100 each, with the chance to win a grand prize of either 20 bred heifers or $50,000 in cash.

Carolan says while the lottery was supposed to launch on Thursday, a website error had the contest live on Wednesday, and in less than 24 hours about 10 per cent of tickets had already sold.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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