NORTHPORT and ISLESBORO, Maine— The Islesboro Crossing for LifeFlight, an open water fundraising swim, has been steadily growing since it started in 2013. At this year’s event, nearly 100 swimmers and their paddler escorts made the 3.1-mile journey across Penobscot Bay from Point Lookout Resort in Northport to the island community of Islesboro. In the process, they raised nearly $175,000 to support Maine’s only helicopter critical care transport service.
The group of swimmers who came together for this year’s event was enthusiastic and diverse, with many personal connections to LifeFlight. There was an 81-year-old lighthouse keeper, a mother whose 12-year-old daughter was LifeFlighted when she was just 5, a husband whose wife was LifeFlighted after a plane crash, a TV producer who survived a brain aneurysm thanks to a LifeFlight transport.
There were competitive long distance swimmers and regular people who wanted to challenge themselves, physically or mentally. There was a father whose daughter was LifeFlighted for a liver transplant, and a mother whose young daughter didn’t survive even after she was taken to the hospital by the LifeFlight helicopter.
They were all united in their love of swimming and the Maine outdoors, and their commitment to supporting the critical service LifeFlight provides to rural communities everywhere in the state.
Proceeds from the 2016 Islesboro Crossing (IX2016) will support LifeFlight’s advanced training and education programs across the state. When you’re seriously hurt or sick in rural Maine, a whole system of emergency medical providers is there to help. That system needs to be as strong as possible to make sure patients everywhere get the care they need, when they need it. LifeFlight provides training and education to dispatchers, first responders, paramedics and emergency room staff to strengthen Maine’s entire network of EMS providers.
LifeFlight Executive Director Thomas Judge explains one part of the education program, “Funds raised at this year’s event will support our human patient simulation program, including the purchase of lifelike, responsive manikins. These specialized teaching tools are the best way we have to deliver important training to rural medical providers who are faced with severely ill and injured patients—training to help them save lives and recognize when to call for help.”
The 4th annual Islesboro Crossing for LifeFlight open water swim fundraising event was held on August 19-20, 2016. On Friday evening athletes and volunteers gathered at the Summit at Point Lookout Resort to have dinner, register and go over the event’s safety plan, which was developed and overseen by the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency. Then at 7am on Saturday morning, swimmers and paddlers began the 5k crossing from Point Lookout Resort’s beach and finished just north of the Grindle Point Lighthouse on Islesboro. Throughout the journey, the participants were escorted by several course and safety boats, all of which were volunteering their time and resources.
On Islesboro, enthusiastic spectators welcomed swimmers as they climbed out of the water, and a large contingent of island volunteers provided a variety of nourishing, homemade food. The LifeFlight helicopter also made an appearance, circling over the flotilla of swimmers and paddlers before landing on the island.
One swimmer, Camden resident Mish Sommers, explains her experience: “The impact of this event on me has been so much greater than I could have expected. I’m so much more aware of the mission and work of LifeFlight. Just this year a number of local friends have been ‘lifeflighted’ to Portland. I hear more and more stories from the local islands about people who made it ‘just in time’ thanks to LifeFlight’s efforts. I have read story after story of lives saved, of children, and hunters, and ordinary folk who otherwise would have no access to advanced medical care, who have been transported to hospitals far away, to just the level of care they needed, in the nick of time.”
In addition to the individual fundraising, the event was also generously sponsored by athenahealth/Point Lookout, Camden National Bank, SevenBar Aviation, Jett Travolta Foundation, Eaton Peabody, Coastal Healthcare Alliance, Jo Ellen Designs, Maine Magazine, Camden Real Estate Company and Triathlete Sports, with major in-kind support from Maine Street Imprints, Pendleton Yacht Yard and the Quicksilver, Sidecountry Sports, The Advertising Specialists of Maine, Luce Transportation, Penobscot Bay YMCA, Schooner Olad and Camden artist Colin Page.
LifeFlight of Maine is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit air medical and critical care transport organization. LifeFlight brings lifesaving critical care staff and equipment directly to the patient by helicopter, airplane and ground ambulance. It also provides advanced emergency medical training to Maine’s hospitals, emergency medical services (EMS) and public safety agencies. Overseen by 25 physicians, LifeFlight cared for nearly 1,800 critically ill and injured patients last year. Since its inception in 1998, LifeFlight has transported more than 20,000 patients from every hospital and nearly all of Maine’s communities and islands. If you would like to learn more about LifeFlight, browse our website or call 207-230-7092.
Be sure to check out the photo gallery below courtesy of Michele Barker and Chris Facq. Be patient – it takes a few extra seconds to load. You can find additional event photos by Michele at her website.