When the first of our new fleet of helicopters landed to much fanfare at an event in Calgary this spring, we carried a number of special guests and dignitaries on board.

We also carried one Very Important Patient.

The milestone event was marked by the arrival of Kelly Waldron in an H145 helicopter that honours her place in STARS history by proudly bearing the official registration mark “C-GKLY” – a nod to her first name.

When Kelly arrived by c-section on Dec. 1, 1985 it was a precarious start. She and her twin brother, Travis, were born more than two months prematurely to mother Diana Hulstein in a Lethbridge hospital. While Travis was flown by a fixed-wing airplane, Kelly was picked up by the newly established STARS. Both infants were taken to what was then Foothills Hospital.

“My mother was told her children would likely not survive and to say her goodbyes,” said Kelly.

Instead, the infants thrived and so did STARS.

Both Kelly and STARS will turn 34 this December, and as we replace our BK117 helicopters and look toward the future, we know that we can’t forget about the past.

“Today is about bringing us one step closer to making our fleet renewal program a reality,” said STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson at the Calgary event, attended by former patients, crew and community allies.

“It is also about paying tribute to the aircraft that have served critically ill and injured patients across Western Canada for 34 years. We are told the lives we help save and the time we give patients and their families makes a difference.”

For Kelly, seeing her initials on a helicopter is an honour like no other.

“I don’t feel like I deserve this,” Kelly said when she was surprised with the news by STARS founder Greg and Linda Powell. “I’m so glad I got to know both of you. You’ll always be in my family.”