STARS Air Ambulance is a service that no one wants to use but everyone wants to have in case of emergency.
Keeping STARS in the air takes a considerable amount of money.
A significant portion, around 43 per cent, of STARS 76 million revenue comes from the province.
Around 20 per cent comes from the STARS lottery which runs every year, 1 per cent comes from calendar sales, and around 10 per cent comes from site registration, investments, and fee for industry services.
The final 27 per cent comes from corporate sponsors, donations and fundraising which is where Henry Thomas and the Battle River Ride for STARS come in.
Entering its 13th year, after being shut down for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the STARS ride took place on July 9 in Paintearth County northeast of Castor.
According to Thomas, the ride was started by his mother and brother before he came on board, and since he’s stepped onto the committee there has been considerable changes.
The ride used to be a 20-mile one-way ride which necessitated the moving of vehicles and horse trailers from the staging area to the end point. Now, the distance is around the same length, but it is a loop with the start and ending at the same place.
Another change is the number of riders. When Henry’s mom and brother started the ride, they had 67 riders that first year. In 2019, the last year the ride was held, that number had shot up to 187, with almost $40,000 raised.
“We did really well that year,” said Thomas.
For the July 9 event, 138 riders took part.
Something Thomas, and the entire committee, pride themselves on, is that 90 per cent-plus of the funds raised go to STARS. The entire event is put on with a $5,000 maximum budget supplemented by sponsorships.
“We’re not into it for the money, we’re into it for STARS,” said Thomas.
Since its inception, the Battle River Ride for STARS has raised over $205,000 for the air ambulance, with the ride being only one part of the fundraising that is done.
In addition to the ride, it has become an annual tradition for the event to hold a custom saddle raffle, with this year’s saddle having been created by Brad Schmidt. On the day of the ride there was a silent auction with a variety of items available to bid on.
Also new this year, any rider aged 12 and under will be entered into a draw for a youth saddle.
A new ride up near Tofield, Alta, has also joined onto the Battle River Ride for STARS. Called the Blackfoot Ride for STARS, the new ride will be operating under the same committee as the Battle River ride. This being the case, Thomas believes that the ride could see up to 250 riders this year, a first since its inception.
Unfortunately, due to the wet weather the region has seen, the Black Foot Ride for STARS was pushed back to Sept. 10, 2022, due to poor trail conditions.
On the night of the Battle River ride, a full meal was be provided for all riders, including brisket, ribs, turkey, and all the fixings. Those not riding were able to purchase a meal ticket from the registration tent. In total, 200 people came out for the supper.
There was free camping at the staging area of the ride, something which 60 people took advantage of on the Friday and Saturday nights.
The cost for riders to participate in the ride is $45, though that fee is waived if the rider earns more than $75 in pledges.