By Justin Seward
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced HALO Air Ambulance to accelerate plans that had been in discussion and were on the books for the future, said Paul Carolan, HALO’s chief executive officer.
Carolan said, “We had no choice but to pursue them because we couldn’t do anything else,”
HALO turned to the cash lottery calendar—which raked in around $50,000 in sales— and people in the community came up with creative ideas such as various Facebook auction fundraisers, the McCain/Western Tractor Free Fry Day event that raised over $400,000 and other program contributors in 2020.
“It just forced us to be different and that’s been great,” said Carolan.
“It’s allowed us to diversify our fund development model and I think that was important regardless—pandemic or otherwise. We’re looking at that as a silver lining and sort of rising to that challenge, that we make sure we keep the program going.”
Carolan hopes these different types of fundraisers will continue into the future as those events will help support the air ambulance more widely and diversely.
HALO announced last May that they were in jeopardy of seizing operation by July 1 if the air ambulance service could not get adequate provincial funding.
“We’ll always acknowledge that the funding is what I would call crisis fundraising,” he said.
“People were responding to our cry for help and to the pandemic. While I know it’s not something we can do year after year after year, it has enabled us to plan better for the future. At the moment, we’re planning full operations with the twin-engine helicopter well into this year. We’re in as good a position as we have ever been at this time of year, so that’s very encouraging and a true testament to what the people and the community has accomplished by keeping us in the air.”
HALO has always been supported by oil and gas companies, but Carolan understands “We’re in the historically lowest prices we’ve ever seen from oil and gas companies,” and was factored in to begin with.
“The farming and ranch community has been around since the beginning,” he said.
“They’ve always supported HALO. There is a level of comfort in knowing the helicopter is available for them if they need it …Ag is commonly the second highest economic driver in the province and I think through the pandemic, it’s going to exceed and be the number one.”
Carolan credits the small businesses that are going through tough times right now with still having the ability to donate to HALO.
“I think that’s one of the biggest things about the whole situation in 2021,” he said.
“Small businesses, people, corporations, in some of the hardest times they’ve ever been through, they’ve still found a way to support HALO and other organizations.”
HALO still has a good dialogue with the provincial health ministry.
“We met with Minister (Tyler) Shandro in December,” he said.
“The bottom line is until the HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) review is made public, there will not be any funding.”