By Charlie Warner
“We’ve raised close to $15,000 over the past three years with this fundraiser, which has allowed us to purchase some very important pieces of equipment,” Caledonia Area Ambulance Service (CAAS) Director Mike Tornstrom stated.
“The support from the area was so much more than we anticipated. The first year we served 600 persons and probably had close to 800 show up for the event. The second year we were better prepared and served around 800,” Tornstrom continued, “and last year it was over 750 meals.”
Tornstrom was referring to the annual Caledonia Area Ambulance Service Chicken-Q, which will be held this Sunday, May 20. Serving begins at 10:30 a.m. and runs until all the food is gone. Serving will be on the CAAS tarmac under a large tent in downtown Caledonia.
During the first two fundraisers, a 5K run/walk was held, which attracted about 100 participants. The run/walk was discontinued last year. Tornstrom explained that it just got to be too much for his staff to put on a chicken-Q for 800 people and also pull off the run/walk.
“We may bring it back some time, if we can get some more help,” Tornstrom noted. “People have said they are disappointed that we’re not having it. But we just didn’t think we could pull it off.”
Besides bringing a lot of people together to enjoy some good food and conversation, Tornstrom said the money raised has helped CAAS purchase equipment that has saved lives.
The first year CAAS used the proceeds to help purchase a multifunctional cardiac defibrillator with EKG monitoring and other essential functions.
“This was a true life-saving piece of equipment that we use on many calls each year. The cardiac defibrillator part of this system has been used about 10 times since we bought it and has saved a number of lives. It provides the needed shock to start up a heart that has gone into cardiac arrest.”
CAAS also used money to help purchase “tough books” laptop computers that have reduced the amount of bookkeeping dramatically. Reports can be made on scene and information is electronically sent to the national data base.
Another piece of equipment is the Striker Power Lift cot. The powered cot compacts to one foot and then uses hydraulics to lift patients up to the level where they can be placed into an ambulance.
“Anyone who has worked around an ambulance is aware of the back injuries that can occur when trying to lift a larger person,” Tornstrom said. “While this is an expensive piece of equipment, it’s a lot cheaper than the cost of back surgery. It is something we feel is needed to help protect our staff.”
Tornstrom reported proceeds from this year’s event will help equip all ambulance personnel with quick response kits and purchase an additional automated external defibrillator (AED) for use in the community.
“We had a record year, as far as number of ambulance calls,” Tonrstrom said. “We had been averaging around 350 calls per year. In 2011 the number of calls jumped to 387. We were very busy.”
The local ambulance service coverage area is 225 square miles and includes all or part of nine surrounding townships, along with the cities of Caledonia and Eitzen.
CAAS currently has 19 EMS personnel, which is a pretty workable number, “but we’re always looking for more,” Tornstrom was quick to add.
“There is quite a bit of training involved and an interviewing process that everyone must go through before they become members of our department,” Tornstrom noted. “Interested persons can contact us and can take part in a ride along to get a first-hand look at what we do.”
Persons can purchase tickets for the meal at Caledonia City Hall, from any CAAS members or at the event. Carryouts and deliveries will be available.
“This is an excellent way for area residents to support their local ambulance service. We try to provide the best possible emergency care for persons living throughout the Caledonia area. Events like this one help us to provide even better service,” Tornstrom concluded.
You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]