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STARS celebrates 15 years in Grande Prairie

A documentary has been released celebrating 15 years of lift-off for STARS Air Ambulance in Grande Pairie.

Senior Municipal Relations Liaison with STARS Glenda Farnden was one of the people that helped lay the foundation when the STARS Air Ambulance base started its operations in Swan City.

“I started ten days before we opened the base and my first task was to set up a grand opening for more than 250 people, mostly regional partners, and stakeholders. Our grand opening took place on December 1st, 2006 and it was awe-inspiring, to see the amount of support shown when we first opened the base.”

The STARS base was fully operational at the time and their first mission took place the same day as the grand opening was happening.

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“It was unbelievable, all of the patrons were asked to hold onto something while we opened the doors. The crew pushed the helicopter out on wheels because we didn’t have a dolly at the time,” she explains. “The entire group of stakeholders in Northern Alberta witnessed first hand what we do.”

Almost one year to the day later, STARS had their grand opening of the first helipad at the old QEII Hospital.

“It was minus 42 [Celsius] that day and we had more than 200 people standing outside in the frigid weather waiting for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and for the helicopter to land on the new helipad. The landing also took place during a life-saving mission,” she says.

Farnden says that the entire STARS base has a role to play in life-saving missions and it’s very much like a big family.

“We wouldn’t operate without teamwork. Grande Prairie is a smaller base than others, which means we have a very unique set of people working here. We really rely on each other. We do things like delivering pizzas so that the crew can have a chance to eat before they go out on a mission.”

STARS receives around 300 calls per year in the Grande Prairie area for emergencies, with 1,300 to 1,500 calls coming in from across the northern half of the province.

Farden has held several different jobs in her career, but working with STARS has been by far the most rewarding of them all.

“This is where I’ll stay until I can’t work anymore. The fulfillment is beyond words,” she says.

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