When you look at a STARS helicopter, you’ll see logos affixed to the tail fin, cowling and doors. Most represent large companies and corporations, many of which are involved in the construction, energy or oil sectors.

If you look a little closer, you’ll see that many of these logos belong to smaller, grassroots community groups and supporters. Over the years, grassroots fundraising efforts have raised staggering amounts of money for STARS, with community members working incredibly hard to support an organization close to their hearts.

The Tyson Parker Commitment to Life Society, for instance, is one of STARS’ most successful community events. It was established in 2007 after Parker was involved in a head-on collision near Leduc, AB.

The 16 year old was flown to hospital by STARS in critical condition.

“If not for the rapid transport STARS provided to get me to emergency care in Edmonton, I may not have survived,” said Parker.

Parker made a full recovery and was determined to give back to the organization that saved his life. He, his family and supporters, established an evening of dinner, dancing and fundraising for STARS in Leduc.

The result was greater than anyone imagined, raising $540,000 for STARS in the first six years – easily earning a logo on our helicopters. Now, the group has its sights set on raising $1 million.

While Parker’s event is one of the most successful community-led events in STARS’ history, it most certainly wasn’t the first. In the very early years, STARS was part of a grassroots fundraising initiative called Hanna Helping STARS. After holding auctions and raffles, more than 300 people crammed into the town of Hanna’s community hall to present STARS with a $100,000 cheque. Throughout our 30-year history STARS has formed many partnerships with groups and supporters like the Town of Hanna and Tyson Parker across Western Canada.

When the Edmonton base opened in 1991, fundraising efforts started slowly. Camrose Friends of STARS, however, quickly recognized the benefit of the service.

The inaugural event had humble beginnings, with a cumulative donation of $500 for STARS in the fundraiser’s first year. Today, the group’s dinner attracts more than 700 guests and raises nearly $50,000 annually for STARS. In 2014, Camrose Friends of STARS celebrated its 20th anniversary and remains one of STARS’ longest-serving supporters.

The group’s efforts have been so successful other community partners have replicated events and fundraising strategies after it.

“This event has truly been the greatest testament of community support,” said Maureen Henkel, development officer with STARS. “The event really highlights how important STARS is to people in the rural communities. They’ve created something so successful that other community partners have modeled their events after this one.”

Sometimes the most meaningful gestures don’t come from a group, but but rather from individuals, such as Alex and Norma Lyall from Millarville, AB. STARS flight nurse Pat Jeffery first met the couple at the Millarville Farmer’s Market in 1997 where they had a modest booth selling flowers, raised from seeds. All proceeds benefitted STARS. Despite being ill with cancer, Alex never missed a Saturday at the market. Jeffery would also make the drive to Millarville to help sell flowers on her weekends off.

Unfortunately, Alex passed away in 1997. Two years later, Norma fell ill with cancer, but her dedication to selling flowers for STARS never wavered. When Jeffery learned Norma never saw the helicopter up close, she arranged for a surprise visit for Norma and her granddaughter. By coincidence, the helicopter was booked for a public relations flight that day, and after years of selling flowers for STARS, Norma had the chance to take a flight.