Garth MacDonald (right), president and CEO of G-Mac’s AgTeam Inc., does cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) during one of the challenges he had to do during the 2016 STARS Rescue on the Prairies fundraiser while Jordan Edgerton (left), a STARS paramedic and former Kindersley area resident, monitors his progress. MacDonald is participating in the 2018 Rescue on the Prairies fundraiser on Sept. 13, and he needs people’s donations to ensure he is rescued.

Kenneth Brown
of The Clarion

The fourth annual STARS Rescue on the Prairies fundraiser is in progress, and a local businessman is participating in the event for a second time in three years.

Garth MacDonald, the president and CEO of G-Mac’s AgTeam Inc., is one of five Saskatchewan community leaders waiting to be whisked away by STARS helicopter on Sept. 13 and flown to an unknown location to compete in challenges while raising money for STARS Air Ambulance.

In the spirit of the event, each of the five participants has to raise $50,000 in order to be rescued from the unknown prairie location. MacDonald was one of five participants in 2016 and he is going back for round two.

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The five participants have already started to collect donations in preparation for the big day. The participants will all be armed with their cellular phones on Sept. 13 as a means of connecting with people to solicit additional donations. The participants will also compete in various challenges that day.

In 2016, one of the challenges was to see how much money each person could raise in a specific amount of time by calling people on that day. Each of the participants has been asked to set a fundraising goal of $50,000 this year, but MacDonald hopes to raise more.

“My personal goal this year is to raise $200,000,” the businessman said, recognizing that he raised $150,000 in 2016 during his first experience and he aspires to eclipse the benchmark because the service needs “much more than that” to operate.

He noted that STARS reached out to ask him if he would be willing to participate again, and he was quick to accept the challenge. He said it is such a good cause and an important cause for residents of rural Saskatchewan.

MacDonald said there are several benefits to living in rural Saskatchewan, but timely emergency health care is one of the challenges of living in a rural area. He said first responders do a great job, but there are limitations as a result of being in a rural area.

A STARS helicopter is able to transport a patient to hospital in Saskatoon or Regina in a fraction of the time it takes to transport a patient using ground transport, and every second counts in the event of a medical emergency, he said.

The businessman said STARS Air Ambulance is a passionate organization and that passion is on display every time a mission is flown. He noted that a total of 874 missions were flown in the 2016-17 fiscal year with an average cost of $5,400 per mission. A letter written by MacDonald states that the economic benefits of missions are six times greater than the costs of flying the missions.

“Every time they’re getting in that helicopter, they know that it could be very bad and yet they’re up for the challenge every time,” he said, recognizing that the STARS medical staff has to deal with trauma all the time. “They’re trained to save lives and that’s what they do.”

MacDonald said the provincial government funds 50 per cent of the annual cost to operate STARS, but the organization through the STARS Foundation has to raise the other 50 per cent of the money it needs to operate. It is why he jumped at the opportunity to help.

He noted that out of all the people he called to ask for a donation in 2016, not one person said no to his requests and it says a lot about how Saskatchewan people value the STARS Air Ambulance service in the province.

The businessman said he has done fundraising for several projects and it is not always as easy to solicit donations as it was during his first Rescue on the Prairies event. The service is also important to G-Mac’s AgTeam, so the company has plans to match the first $50,000 he raises.