From the very beginning, STARS has always been about the patient.

When STARS’ founder, Dr. Greg Powell, encountered a mother 30 years ago whom he felt would have survived if she arrived at the emergency department sooner, he was inspired to find a way to fill the need.

This air ambulance service’s humble beginnings in 1985 began with just one helicopter and the vision of an emergency physician. Today, STARS has provided care for thousands of patients across six bases in Western Canada.

As demand for the helicopter and its highly trained crews increased over the years, STARS met those needs by reaching out for support. We raised funds to purchase more helicopters and we found more advanced ways to care for more patients.

To think, we’ve carried out more than 30,000 missions in 30 years. It’s those people – we call them Very Important Patients (VIPs) – who remind us each and every day that STARS is needed. Once they are feeling up to it, many of our patients visit our bases to meet their crews and offer thanks. With tears in their eyes they recall the day their lives changed. Their stories are profoundly personal and different. They wonder aloud where they would be if STARS wasn’t there that day.

What I find so fascinating is their universal desire to help us after living through something so incredibly traumatic. They want to give back by sharing their story, volunteering, donating and rallying their families, friends and communities.

We have so much to celebrate as we reflect on the past three decades of a charity built on passion, purpose, and commitment to patient care.

Some of our best memories and moments of the past three decades are reflected in this special issue of Horizons newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading about how we’ve grown from our precarious start, our early days of fundraising and our ongoing commitment to patient care.

Thirty years ago, Dr. Powell would arrive at work and wonder if any donations had trickled in overnight to buy fuel for the helicopter, as the new organization struggled to keep afloat. To a certain degree we still think this way. We have become part of the fabric of the communities in which we live, play and serve but we know we wouldn’t be here without your support.

As we look forward to the future I am often asked how long STARS will be around. The answer is simple – as long as we’re needed.

Andrea headshot


Andrea Robertson

President & CEO
STARS and STARS Foundation