Saturday, February 13, 2010

PSAC raises $4.1 million for charity

STARS earns their spurs

Everyone loves Western wear ... at least in Calgary. That’s according to Debra McAdam, a communications consultant originally from Vancouver, and Elizabeth Aquin, the senior vice-president of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC). And they should know. The two women were driving forces behind the sixteenth annual STARS & Spurs gala.

The gala evening took place at the BMO Centre on the Stampede grounds. Guests were invited to wear their best Western attire, and they did. There was a hat-shaping station next to the giant milk can where raffle tickets were dropped. A lone fiddle player welcomed guests into the massive room.

Once inside, attendees meandered through a silent auction. Prizes included: a romantic weekend for two at the Fairmont Banff Springs or the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a sightseeing tour in a Cassna 182 airplane, ballet tickets, priceless works of art, and frozen semen for thoroughbred stallion breeding. There was a live auction, too, where a Team Canada Hockey Jersey (signed by Sidney Crosby), and a golf trip for two to Fox Harbour Resort in Nova Scotia were the first to go.

Over the past sixteen years, PSAC has raised $4.1 million dollars for the charity, STARS. Founded in 1985, the Alberta Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society has a base of operations in Calgary, Edmonton, and Grand Prairie. It is a non-profit charity. STARS provides emergency air lift and medical procedures, employing a team of high trained and specialized doctors, nurses, pilots and others. They also provide emergency fire dispatch, and are available twenty-four hours a day to labourers in remote areas – a facet of their work of particular interest to PSAC.

Elizabeth Aquin explains that many PSAC employees work in remote and dangerous territory, where traditional forms of emergency support are unable to reach them.

At the gala also was one of the STARS helicopters, and a virtual training machine. It is a tricky business, landing a helicopter in a heavy fog or woods or on a mountain top, and then treating a patient in the cramped space while the machine rolls and pitches toward a hospital.

A three course meal was served. The entree was Alberta prime rib beef with Burgundy wine and shallots. For desert, a large chocolate ganache cake was brought to every table with sparklers on top. The occasion was also celebrating the 25th anniversary of STARS. In keeping with the theme, each guest was given either a bolo tie or a red lace garter belt with mini-pistol with their place setting. Aquin and McAdam said they tried skipping the Western theme one year and it just didn’t work. People like it and feel comfortable in their boots, they said. Canadian country music singer Jessie Farrell provided the entertainment.

Other guests included The Honourable Ron Liepert, formerly the Minister of Health before a shuffle landed him as Minister of Energy just one week before the gala, Dr. Gregory Powell, a founder of STARS who was recently appointed a member to the Order of Canada, Al Buchignani, the former executive vice president of ENMAX and current chair of the STARS board, and Roger Soucy, president of PSAC.

Published in National Post, February 13, 2010

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