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Mercy Flight Central celebrates the purchase of 4 new helicopters

Mercy Flight Central hosted their biennial fundraising gala “Taste for the Race” Saturday, August 7, publicly announcing the purchase of four new helicopters and their $5,000,000 comprehensive fundraising initiative, which includes the “Mercy Flight Central Campaign for Community” to help support the new fleet.

The event raised both awareness and over $300,000 for Mercy Flight Central’s life-saving, critical care services. Mercy Flight Central also revealed a generous $1,000,000 contribution from The Sands Family Foundation as the lead gift for the campaign. The long-standing support of The Sands Family dates back to Marvin Sands as a board member in the early years of the organization. In honor of that relationship, the hangar in Canandaigua and the first of the new aircraft will be dedicated to The Sands Family Foundation.

“Mercy Flight Central is proud to have served this region for nearly three decades and we are thrilled to announce, here on this special night, the purchase of four new IFR-certified AW119Kx helicopters from Leonardo Helicopters,” said Jeff Bartkoski, President and CEO of Mercy Flight Central. “These helicopters will replace our aging fleet which are costly to maintain and repair. This investment in new aircraft represents a re-commitment to the community. We provide service to more than 3 million residents in over 24 counties from our bases in Canandaigua, Marcellus and Rome, NY. These new AW119Kx will enable us to continue our life-saving mission for the next three decades with increased safety and efficiency.”

Ginny Clark, Executive Director of the Sands Family Foundation, along with Richard Childress, created “Taste for the Race” in 2004. Clark’s family’s history is deeply entwined with that of Mercy Flight Central. Her daughter, Shaunna, was air lifted by Mercy Flight Central 28 years ago and was their first pediatric patient. When Clark shared Shaunna’s story with her dear friend Richard Childress, he immediately offered his help to raise money for Mercy Flight Central and “Taste for the Race” was born. Clark states, “Although Shaunna’s accident happened years ago, Mercy Flight Central will always be a cause close to my heart and it brings me great joy to see so many people join together for the cause. Our family will be forever grateful to Mercy Flight Central for their speed, skill and compassion when our family needed it most.”

“This community and our friends at Mercy Flight Central are important to us in the NASCAR racing family,” said Richard Childress. “I am personally honored to support ‘Taste for the Race.’ What an incredible evening for such an important resource here in this community!”

Leonardo Helicopters was in attendance at “Taste for the Race” for the announcement and brought their training aircraft so that guests could view the new helicopter. “We are incredibly pleased to partner with Mercy Flight Central,” said William Hunt, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters U.S. “Their acquisition of an IFR-certified AW119 will greatly aid their crews with the ability to fly life-saving missions in inclement weather and will provide efficient cabin configuration for patient transport and care, enhancing the superior service they provide to their community.”

“We are fortunate and proud to have built this program with the help and support of so many community partners throughout the years,” Bartkoski said. “That generosity has enabled us to provide critical care air medical service, impacting more than 16,000 patients and their families.”

“We are so grateful to The Sands Family Foundation for their incredible gift,” Bartkoski said. “Thanks to them and the contributions of many within the community, we have already raised over 75% of the campaign goal. We are so appreciative of the continued generosity of this community and we look forward to sharing our ‘Campaign for Community’ story with all of this region.”

To learn more about the Mercy Flight Central Campaign for Community or to give a gift in support of the new aircraft, contact Jasmine DiSalvo, senior director of development for Mercy Flight Central, at 585- 396-0584.