By Lauren Zaepfel
Mercy Flight of Western New York will hold its annual LakeFest event from 3-10 p.m. this Saturday, July 22, at the Town of Niagara's Veterans Memorial Community Park, 7000 Lockport Road. Proceeds generated from the event will benefit Mercy Flight.
Tickets for LakeFest Niagara 2017 cost $40 presale or $50 at the door. The event, exclusively for those 21 and older, will offer live music, fireworks, auctions, raffles, games and food (available until 8 p.m.), beer, wine and pop throughout the day. A basket raffle with more than 100 baskets will also be featured during the event.
For an additional donation of $100, visitors can take a ride in one of Mercy Flight's helicopters (available until 7:30 p.m.).
"LakeFest not only benefits Mercy Flight financially by being one of our largest annual fundraisers, but it also gives the community an outlet to learn more about the Mercy Flight cause and why it's so vital in WNY," said Kate Glaser, director of marketing and public affairs at Mercy Flight. "There will be a number of pilots, paramedics, physicians and EMTs at the event to speak with community members about their roles within Mercy Flight, and how they offer unparalleled medical care when minutes matter."
Mercy Flight Director of Development and Events Ashley Coder said proceeds from the event, which is put on by a committee of local volunteers, "helps us with our daily operating procedures; it helps us train our crew; it helps us make sure that our equipment is in good working (condition), (and) we're able to replace our equipment as needed."
Mercy Flight Director of Air Medical Operations Don Trzepacz explained Mercy Flight's costs are mostly covered by insurance reimbursement. However, the remaining (20 percent or so) "needs to be made up via donations, fundraisers and all those types of things."
Mercy Flight provides both emergency air medical transport, as well as ground coverage.
Coder said, "We're one of the last nonprofit organizations that do what we do." She added, "Being on that nonprofit status we're able to help out our patients who maybe can't pay for the services."
Coder said all of Mercy Flight's helicopters are staffed with a pilot, a physician and a flight nurse. She said the helicopters are referred to as "little flying emergency rooms."
"We have great fire departments and we have great hospitals in the area, but we just have the advantage of the helicopters, and when minutes matter we can get patients where they need to go," Coder said.
Trzepacz said, "Mercy Flight was built upon the premise of being able to provide our expert medical crews to the patient regardless of their ability to pay and that's part of our mission statement."
He added, "We are requested at a patient's side at their time of emergency. And we never want to create a secondary emergency as a result of a (billing) situation."
With LakeFest, Glaser said, "We hope to not only raise necessary funds for our nonprofit mission, but also inspire the community with our cause by meeting them and hearing more from them about how Mercy Flight impacted their lives. It's so important to remember that Mercy Flight is here for you when you are in time of critical need."
She also said, "LakeFest has raised more than $2.5 million for Mercy Flight" over the years.
The event, now in its 14th year, is making its return to Niagara County after being held for many years in Burt and last year in Franklinville.
Mercy Flight provides the Town of Niagara with its Mercy EMS ambulance service.
Town of Niagara Supervisor Lee Wallace said, "Anything we can do to support their efforts and to help them with their fundraiser, we're on board. And that's why we stepped to the plate and said 'Bring it here and we'll do what we can.' "
Coder said organizers wanted to bring LakeFest "back to Niagara where it all started, and we just have a really great support system up there."
She also said the Town of Niagara's Veterans Memorial Community Park provides significant space to accommodate LakeFest and all of its offerings.
"It's a great venue for us to be able to grow into the event there and host a lot of people and have a great time," Coder said.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 716-626-5808, ext. 1308; online at www.mercyflight.org
; or at Town of Niagara Town Hall, 7105 Lockport Road.