Rocky View County (RVC) council has agreed to provide $79,000 to STARS as part of its ongoing commitment to the valued air ambulance service.

During its Feb. 9 meeting, the council heard of the fundraising challenges being faced by STARS since COVID-19 compounded the impact of Alberta's economic downturn.

STARS' Glenda Farnden said there has been a decline in all sources of funding, including that from the Alberta government.

"Last year's lotteries did not sell out," she told RVC council. "The calendar campaign is down by more than half. Flight registration revenue is considerably less with the uncertainty of the energy sector."

Because of COVID-19, STARS has cancelled all in-person fundraising events for the foreseeable future.

It's not all bad news, though. She says the organization has pivoted many of its fundraising programs to online events, some communities have hosted 50-50 raffles, and the STARS lotteries will continue in 2021.

"We are humbled that Albertans continue to stand by our side. In its first month, the lottery is outperforming predictions, and we also see an increase in individual contributions coming from our direct mail campaign."

STARS Air Ambulance has been in operation for over 35 years and flown over 45,000 missions in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. They carried out almost 3,000 missions alone in the last fiscal year.

Between 2015 and 2020, STARS responded to 150 calls in Rocky View County, including 34 in the Cochrane area. Of the 16 calls in 2020, one was in the Cochrane area.

On average, the STARS Air Ambulance service responds to eight missions per day, five of those located in Alberta. Air ambulance service is the responsibility of the province, with STARS fundraising augmenting the program.

Since 1991, RVC Council has made annual donations to the STARS Air Ambulance program. The $79,000 contribution was included in the county's 2021 fire services operational budget, pending council approval.