Saskatchewan’s agricultural community has again stepped up.
“We’re humbled and honoured to be able to have the ag industry support and champion this event to make it such a big success,” said Kim Kroll-Goodwin, manager of events for STARS air ambulance in Saskatchewan.
Field of STARS will take place during Ag in Motion in Langham, Sask., July 17. (Ag in Motion and The Western Producer are owned by Glacier FarmMedia.)
The 1,200 seat, casual outdoor gala will feature a steak dinner, dancing and entertainment by award winning country music artist Brett Kissel.
The charity event will also hold a silent and live auction of farming items, which organizers hope will raise $1 million for STARS.
The idea was first suggested by Ben Voss, CEO of Morris Industries and member on the STARS’ volunteer board.
He attended a STARS’ fundraiser in Calgary earlier this winter organized by the oil and gas sector, which raised $1.4 million.
“They’ve been running a fundraiser for 20 years. I liked the model and when I came back to Saskatchewan I thought we should do the same thing but do it in the ag sector,” he said.
“People in ag are big contributors to charities. And STARS is a particularly special one for farmers because with rural hospitals not having emergency rooms anymore, STARS is the only way that you’re going to get help.”
“Whether it’s a farm accident, or somebody who’s in a car accident, or something like the Humbodlt tragedy it’s because of STARS that we can sleep well at night to know that there are very qualified people who are going to look after us if we’re really sick like that.”
Voss approached organizers of Ag in Motion (AIM), who quickly gave the green light and moved fast.
“I thought it was a great opportunity not just for STARS but also for Ag in Motion and Glacier FarmMedia because it’s an opportunity for us to give back to the community that we’re so heavily invested in,” said Rob O’Connor, show director.
Added Voss: “AIM was really excited about it because they were looking to bring something like this to the show and STARS was really excited because they were looking for a way to reach out into the ag community for a long time.”
The items for both the silent and live auctions are oriented towards farmers.
“We’re going to see farm inputs, agronomy packages, things like ag risk insurance, even FCC is providing (zero interest for a year) financing. So if the farmer can qualify for financing, whatever they buy at the auction they can actually finance the purchase and the proceeds go to STARS – it’s pretty innovative,” said Voss.
Morris Industries is donating a one-year lease of a seeding system valued at $100,000 with proceeds going to STARS.
“We pulled together all the farm supply companies: machinery, crop inputs, all the different services that go into ag and said, ‘why don’t you donate your products and services because you want to showcase them to farmers anyway,” he said.
“It’s not really that much of a charitable issue because they’re going to need these inputs anyway and the money will go to STARS.”
About half of the operating budget for STARS in Saskatchewan comes from the provincial government, while the remaining $10.5 million is raised annually by the STARS Foundation through individual, community and corporate donations, as well as fundraisers and the STARS lottery.
“We raise a lot of money through the lottery but in terms of events this will be one of the biggest we’ve ever done in Saskatchewan that’s for sure,” said Voss.
Kroll-Goodwin said this is the sixth year of operation for STARS in Saskatchewan and has been looking for ways to partner with the ag industry and back fundraising efforts.
Amazement is how she describes the speed at which the event has been organized since AIM got on board in January, which to date has sold 900 tickets. The tickets will not be sold individually, but through group purchases and sponsorship.
“Almost unheard of to be able to pull off a 1,200 person fundraising gala in that short amount of time. It’s come together just incredible,” she said.
“It’s just a perfect partnership – rural are our people. They are the people we serve. So to be able to do something in partnership is pretty incredible.”
“Honestly to see the way that the ag industry has just taken such ownership of it is pretty humbling.”