Our People. Their Stories - EHS LifeFlight

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LifeFlight, Community Paramedics Deliver Joy
Filling Helicopters, Ambulances with Food and Toys

What started as a simple idea to raise money and collect items for families in need has soared to new heights. In 2018, the staff of Emergency Health Services (EHS) LifeFlight, which treats and transports critically ill patients by air, launched what they dubbed an Acts of Kindness Fund. The event was conceived by the LifeFlight team as a way to give back to the community.

Each year, the LifeFlight crew hosts an open house and toy drive, where all EHS Operations employees are invited to bring what they can to stuff a helicopter full of toys. In the latest example of how much the initiative has grown, the fifth edition of the ‘Stuff a Helicopter’ Toy Drive, held on December 13, was its biggest and best yet.

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Crystal Upshaw, far left, EHS LifeFlight Stuff a Helicopter event

“We’re setting examples of paying it forward in hopes it inspires others. For the staff, it’s really important for us to give back to the community and show that we care. The thing I, and all crew members, really love is to inspire others to do the same.”

Crystal Upshaw, Critical Care Flight Nurse

What the LifeFlight team didn’t know when they first started the Acts of Kindness Fund was the impact a partnership with a local family — with that very same goal — would have on their simple idea.

Several years ago, Jack Sperry started a holiday tradition of collecting items for families in need to honour the memory of his late brother, Owen, who passed away in a motor vehicle collision in 2013.

The two groups partnered for the first edition of the Stuff a Helicopter Toy Drive in 2018, and the project’s success has left Tracy Sperry speechless.

“Every year we look at making it bigger, and every year we succeed. To see how much it’s grown, right now I’m very emotional about it.”

Tracy Sperry, mother of Jack and Owen Sperry

The Fund and the Sperry family will donate items collected at the event this year to the IWK Health Centre, Phoenix House, Marguerite Centre, two long-term care homes, and a local Nova Scotian family of four. A donation will also be made to Feed Nova Scotia.

Contributions have been matched by EHS Operations, which is managed for the Province of Nova Scotia by Medavie, Canadian Helicopters Ltd., and PAL Airlines.

“All staff and management have been amazingly supportive of this initiative,” Upshaw said, adding that they are already looking at how they can make it bigger and better next year.

“It’s very selfish on us because it makes us feel good. We know we’re helping others, but it does feel good for us. To see the impact, it has been very meaningful.”

Crystal Upshaw

For the Sperry family, the event continues to exceed all expectations.

“I think we make everyone’s Christmas a little more special. Knowing we’re doing it in Owen’s memory, it makes me a proud mom.”

Tracy Sperry

Making Christmas a little more special for others has been a goal every holiday season the staff of EHS Operations.

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Trevor Fougere and team, Port Hawkesbury Toy Drive

Each year, paramedics and nurses host food and toy drives across Nova Scotia, from one end of the province to the other. The team at 811 Telecare is looking to collect 811 items of food for Feed Nova Scotia. It’s another way they can help people in need, which is something they already do on a regular basis as part of their work.

“I feel like if we have an opportunity to do good things, then we should,” said paramedic Trevor Fougere, who has helped organize a toy drive in Port Hawkesbury for the last four years.

This year, Fougere and several other paramedic volunteers helped collect hundreds of dollars’ worth of toys and cash donations.

“We all enjoy the amount of generosity that is displayed year after year and the great conversations we have with the different community members. It’s really quite eye-opening as to the level of people’s generosity year after year.”

Trevor Fougere, Paramedic

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Amanda White and team, Antigonish Food Drive

Paramedic Amanda White began volunteering at a food drive in Antigonish soon after moving there from Ontario in 2013 and has been organizing it since 2015.

White says it is important for communities to know paramedics are always there for them, even as they continue to navigate a busy system. This year they collected $1,308 in monetary donations and 1,315 pounds of food.

“Being able to enter people's homes is a privilege that not many get to experience. We see people at their worst when they need help. This definitely motivates me to do what I can in these hard times. Being able to watch the community that welcomed me be so generous and give what they can is inspiring.”

Amanda White, Paramedic

Colleen Carey, ECP Stocking Drive

Colleen Carey, a community paramedic with the Extended Care Paramedic (ECP) Program, has been participating in their annual stocking drive for seven years.

Every year, the ECP team get together to collect stockings and stuff them with items for several long-term care homes in the Halifax area, an initiative that is funded by EHS Operations. The group averages 80 to 120 stockings per year. This year, they also donated 20 stockings to LifeFlight’s Stuff a Helicopter Drive.

“Christmas is a tough time of year for a lot of people. Although paramedics have a demanding job, we should consider ourselves fortunate for what we have, and giving up a small amount of time to cheer someone up on Christmas Day is just part of our nature to help those in need.”

Colleen Carey, Community Paramedic

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