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Stranded on an island for a good cause

STARS Rescue on the Island event will soon see a number of well-known Manitoba community members left on an isolated island until they can earn their way home

STARS celebrated 30 years in operation in May. The program began 
in Calgary in 1985.

Elm Creek producer Colin Penner will leave his tractor cab mid-harvest to be dropped on a remote island hoping he gets enough support from the agricultural community to get home.

Colin Penner
Colin Penner

“It’s not every day you get to participate in a phenomenal fundraiser like this. It does make me nervous to be away during our busy season, but I am hopeful that the ag community will get behind me so I can get off the island and back in the tractor,” said Penner.

Penner, along with six other participants, is gearing up to take part in the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society’s (STARS) upcoming fundraiser, Rescue on the Island.

“This will be our third Rescue on the Island event we’ve held. The last two years we raised around $500,000, so we are hoping to beat that goal this year,” said Betty Lou Rock, vice-president of operations with STARS. “Each of our participants has their own personal goal. Some are hoping to raise around $50,000. But for us it’s not just about raising money, it’s also about raising awareness around STARS and the services we provide.”

Participants will be flown via helicopter to a remote location Sept. 15 where they will compete in a series of challenges while trying to raise pledges through their personal networks.

“They will be left on the island until they reach their goal. As far as the participants go, we try and get together individuals from a cross-section of different industries and communities,” said Rock.

This year’s seven participants include the chair of the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce, Jessica Dumas, vice-president of L. Chabot Enterprises Ltd., Nicole Chabot, former Blue Bomber, Rod Hill, mayor of Steinbach, Chris Goertzen, University of Manitoba instructor and farmer, Colin Penner, CEO of Len Dubois Trucking, Jason Dubois, and vice-president of MacDon, Gene Fraser.

“I truly believe that the services provided by STARS are critical. Our dealers and customers in rural areas may at some point need emergency medical transportation to a hospital, so it’s crucial that we support a cause that helps save lives,” said vice-president of MacDon, Gene Fraser. “As well, our loved ones, employees, and friends travel regularly in the summertime and it’s comforting to know that we did our part to help in the event an accident or medical emergency should take place while travelling or enjoying the summer.”

Rural lifeline

As rural Manitoba continues to struggle with doctor shortages and emergency room closures, STARS has become a lifeline for transporting the critically ill and injured.

Penner, a Farm Management instructor with the School of Agriculture at the University of Manitoba, said he has never had a personal interaction with STARS. But he has seen the service active in his community.

“I know that there have been a few accidents and injuries around here where the helicopter has landed within 10 miles of the farm,” he said. “I think that this service is incredibly important. I live, work and play in the middle of nowhere and if something were to happen, an ambulance would take quite a while to get here. Having STARS active in the province is an essential service for anyone living outside of the Perimeter.”

Recent addition

STARS was originally established in Calgary in 1985 and has since expanded to five other locations in Western Canada — Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Winnipeg, Regina, and Saskatoon.

The service was originally brought into Manitoba during the 2009 flood and then once more during the 2011 flood. At that time, it was decided to establish a permanent base in Winnipeg. In 2012, the provincial government signed an agreement to provide funding for 10 years.

Throughout 2014, STARS’ six different locations responded to 3,084 calls and have completed more than 29,000 missions in its 30-year run.

Those interested in helping Penner and the other participants get off the island, please visit

“Farming is often seen as a noble profession where we care for the land, and a lot of times I think that farmers put caring for the land and producing food above their own safety. One way to give back to a farmer would certainly be to support STARS,” said Penner.

About the author


Jennifer Paige

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.



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