ISLESBORO, Maine — Sixty swimmers had perfect conditions Saturday for a roughly 3-mile open-water crossing from Lincolnville to Islesboro, which they did to raise money for the LifeFlight of Maine Foundation.
The first swimmers to make it to Islesboro had the chance to meet a celebrity, as television star and Islesboro summer resident Kirstie Alley came to congratulate them.
“It was great,” Daniel Bookham of Rockland, chairperson of the LifeFlight of Maine Foundation’s board of trustees, said the day after the second annual charity event. “It’s just one of those events and one of those organizations that when you tell people about it, folks line up to help.”
His wife, Jessie Davis, is the organizer of the event. She wanted to help the nonprofit foundation, which uses its helicopters and medical staff to help rescue people in all corners of the state, from remote wilderness locales to offshore island communities.
Last year, 38 swimmers participated in the crossing. This year it “grew like wildfire,” Bookham said. Swimmers came from all over New England and raised $68,000 for the charity. Then, a former LifeFlight patient pledged a $40,000 match after hearing about the race, bringing the total amount of funds raised to $108,000.
“It was beyond my wildest dreams,” Davis said. “It’s great to raise all this money, but I think the bigger picture for me is wanting to get people involved in having a personal stake in LifeFlight.”
In 2012, the organization responded to about 1,500 calls. With an average per-call cost of $6,000 to $7,000, community support is critical, according to foundation staff.
The funds raised Saturday will be used to purchase ultrasound machines for the helicopters, Davis said, and what’s left over will become starter money for the foundation’s third helicopter. The ultrasound machines will be able to track internal bleeding and other health concerns that are not apparent any other way, she said.
“Everybody knows, when they see or hear the helicopter, that something negative is happening to someone, somewhere. I think their initial feeling is a sense of dread,” Davis said. “But someone’s worst day doesn’t have to be their last day. It can end up being their best day.”
For more information about the LifeFlight of Maine foundation or to support the swimmers, visit lifeflightmaine.org.