‘Big Hats, Big Hearts’ benefit raises funds for Integris helipad

Rex Van Meter, president of Integris Canadian Valley Hospital, speaks about the importance of adding a helipad during last Friday’s “Big Hats, Big Hearts” benefit at Events at 10 West Main in Yukon. Photographer/Maleyia Vaughn

Integris Canadian Valley Hospital may soon get their helipad after a successful fundraising banquet last Friday night.
“You are invited to wear big hats and have big hearts,” an invitation to the event reads. “Cowboy Up for a Rip-Roaring Good Time In Cahoots with INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital! Big Hats, Big Hearts and a Big Win for a hospital helipad!”
Attendees sure did have a “rip-roaring good time” with live music from the Ross Clayton Band, dancing, casino games, a wine toss, prizes, photo booth, bar, dinner and more.
An Air Methods Medi Flight helicopter also made an appearance in the parking lot of the event. Pilot Monny Corley, Paramedic John Phillips and Nurse and Paramedic James Brigida spoke with attendees who wanted to learn more about the helicopter and let them “climb on in” to see what the inside is like.
“This will be the only time you want to see the inside of one of these,” Phillips said at the event. “But we try to be the best part of the worst day of your life.”
Dr. Max Martin, a pilot for The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical was also in attendance. He explained how every Medi Flight has to have a nurse, a paramedic and a pilot. The nurse and paramedic switch seats as needed to care for the patient.
Integris Canadian Valley currently doesn’t have a helipad and lands in unsatisfactory places, but the addition of a helipad would improve the hospital’s safety, timeliness and reputation, said Rex Van Meter, president of Integris Canadian Valley.
“Time is important. All the seconds count. They matter,” he said during the event. “From your support tonight, we’ll be able to make a helipad possible.”
Valerie Austin, the administrative director at Integris Canadian Valley, is a nurse by trade who came up to tell a personal story during the event.
Before her time in Oklahoma, Austin was a flight nurse in Arizona.
“It was the funnest job I ever had. I loved it—besides Canadian Valley of course,” Austin joked. “That’s number one. Flight nursing was number two.”
The mood then changed as Austin spoke of how as a flight nurse, “your life is on the line every day as you land on the scene.”
“You have to worry about your babies. You have to worry about if you’re going to come home at night, and where you’re landing and what you’re doing. It gets pretty scary,” she said. “I was pregnant with my daughter at the time and I flew up until I was quite, quite pregnant with her then stopped. About a year after I left, my helicopter crashed and we lost the nurse and the paramedic and the pilot. It was pretty heart breaking for me. So this project means a lot to me and it means a lot to the flight crews and the nurses, both ER and intensive care, and the pilots that service our hospital. I just want to thank you all for your support tonight. Thank you for coming out, and for just supporting our hospital time and time again. We appreciate it, from the bottom of my heart. This means a lot to us—from keeping our patients safe to keeping our flight crews safe, and helping us to keep care local here in Yukon where we can provide great care for these patients.”
Van Meter reiterated how important the helipad project is and how important it is for the community.
“It’ll help us provide the best care possible in everything we do. We really believe that everyone tonight has the power to make a difference in our patients’ lives,” Van Meter said.
Almost $6,000 was raised through the giving cards during the event, but it is unknown how much money was raised at the “Big Hats, Big Hearts” event in total because an official with the Integris Foundation was unavailable for comment at presstime.

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