A half a million dollars is an impressive amount of money by almost any measure. Even more impressive, most of it was collected one $10, $50 or $100 donation at a time thanks to the dedication of this year’s Islesboro Crossing swimmers, paddlers and volunteers. Open water swimmers and LifeFlight supporters from across Maine and beyond worked tirelessly over the last few weeks, getting ready to swim 3 miles across Penobscot Bay, while also raising much needed funds to help LifeFlight purchase two new helicopters to replace its oldest models, which were put into service back in 2004.
In its sixth year, the Islesboro Crossing for LifeFlight, a 3-mile swim from Northport to Islesboro, filled to its maximum capacity of 150 swimmers just a few days after registration opened in February. Joined by an additional 150 paddling escorts and dozens of volunteers, this group of enthusiastic LifeFlight supporters and open water swimmers raised more than $500,000 to help purchase next generation helicopters for the people of Maine.
This distinctive fundraising event focuses on both the challenges and the rewards of living in a rural state with thousands of miles of coastline, millions of acres of forest and farmland, and more than 3,000 islands. Visiting and living in rural Maine, especially on one of the state’s islands, is a unique experience. It offers solitude, natural beauty, and small, tight-knit communities. But the time and distance to specialized medical care is formidable—especially in an emergency.
The swimmers and paddlers making their way across Penobscot Bay physically overcome that distance. The journey is symbolic of the difficulties in accessing critical care in emergencies, and also a way to support LifeFlight, just one of many organizations helping to overcome those challenges.
The 2018 event’s safety plan was developed by the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency, which then helped to implement it. Throughout the crossing, participants were guided by several course and safety boats, all of which volunteered their time and resources. On Islesboro, enthusiastic spectators welcomed swimmers as they climbed out of the water, and a large contingent of island volunteers provided a variety of nourishing, homemade food.
The event couldn’t have been held without support from the volunteer boat captains, the Marine Patrol, Coast Guard, Camden Fire, Islesboro EMS and the Maine State Ferry Service. Also providing critical transportation support were Pendleton Yacht Yard and Island Transporter.
Contributing to the fundraising total are business sponsors including Camden National Bank, Viking Inc., Hannaford Supermarkets, Coastal Healthcare Alliance, Jett Travolta Foundation, Spectrum Healthcare Partners, Fisher Engineering, SevenBar Aviation, Journey’s End Marina, Horch Roofing, Eaton Peabody, Jo Ellen Designs and Rockport Automotive.
When someone in Maine is suffering from a major medical event, or is the victim of a serious accident, LifeFlight is often called to help. The flight crew brings expertise and equipment, along with speed of the aircraft, directly to the patient, whether at the scene of an accident or at a rural healthcare facility.
Since 2004, two of Maine’s emergency medical helicopters, Echo Mike and Charlie Mike, have been beacons of hope in moments of need. The aircraft have crisscrossed the state, flying millions of miles and helping care for more than 25,000 patients. With flight time racking up and aviation technology continually evolving, LifeFlight is looking ahead to the fast-approaching day when those aircraft must be replaced. The organization is in the midst of a campaign to raise $8 million of the $13 million total cost to purchase the next generation of fast, nimble and safe aircraft.
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