Islesboro Crossing raises $400,000 for replacement helicopters

Release Date: 8/22/2019 12:00:00 AM

The 7th annual Islesboro Crossing for LifeFlight took place on Sunday, August 18 with 144 swimmers making their way three miles across Penobscot Bay to the island community of Islesboro. They were each accompanied by a safety paddler and together they raised $400,000 which will help purchase new emergency medical helicopters for the people of Maine.

Part of this event is about the physical and mental challenge of swimming 3 miles in the ocean, and part of it is about raising money for Maine’s emergency helicopter organization. Meant to illustrate the complexities of providing emergency care to rural communities across the state, the Islesboro Crossing is a significant physical challenge for many of the people who participate. It’s not a race, so it attracts those who want to set a goal and work toward it. A 3-mile ocean swim requires months of training to get in good physical shape, and for some people, it also requires a fair amount of mental toughness. The ocean can be daunting, especially the Atlantic, where the temperature rarely rises above 60 degrees.

The event is also a fundraiser for LifeFlight of Maine, the state’s only emergency medical helicopter organization. A nonprofit, LifeFlight relies on donations to purchase new aircraft and advanced medical equipment, as well as provide clinical training to emergency medical providers from first responders to ICU nurses. Each swimmer agrees to raise a minimum of $175, but most participants raise much, much more.

The common thread that runs through every aspect of the Islesboro Crossing is community building. The camaraderie among swimmers, friends and strangers alike, is quickly obvious. Everyone is willing to lend a hand, with a ready smile and an enthusiastic high five. People from across the midcoast Maine region volunteer their time and talents to produce this unique event. Waldo County EMA leads the safety team and all course boats are provided by private boat captains at no charge. Dozens of people on Islesboro take on the little details that go into creating the warm welcome every swimmer receives, including enough coffee, fruit and homebaked goods to feed a crowd of nearly 400. Then there are the thousands of people who, thanks to the outreach from swimmers and paddlers, hear about LifeFlight’s mission and are inspired to support it.

The event couldn’t have been held without additional support from the Marine Patrol, Coast Guard, Camden Fire, Islesboro EMS and the Maine State Ferry Service. Also providing critical transportation support were Pendleton Yacht Yard, Island Transporter and Luce Transportation.

Contributing to the fundraising total are sponsors including Camden National Bank, Viking Inc., Coastal Healthcare Alliance, SevenBar Aviation, Camden Dermatology & Mohs Surgery, Whitecap Builders, Maine Magazine, Horch Roofing, Jett Travolta Foundation, Journey’s End Marina, Eaton Peabody, Fisher Engineering,  Jo Ellen Designs, LandVest, Rockport Automotive, Dead River, First National Bank, C&L Aviation, E.L. Spear, Continuum Physical Therapy and Sidecountry Sports.

The money raised at IX2019 will help LifeFlight purchase new helicopters to replace the organization’s two oldest models, Echo Mike and Charlie Mike, which can’t be re-engineered to take care of the next generation of Mainers. Over the last 7 years, swimmers, paddlers, volunteers and sponsors have raised nearly $1.5 million to support LifeFlight -- support that has helped thousands of critically ill and injured people in Maine get the care they needed when it mattered most.

To learn more about LifeFlight’s biggest annual fundraising event, please visit www.islesborocrossing.org.

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 more than 2,200 critically ill and injured patients last year. Since its inception in 1998, LifeFlight has transported more than 27,000 patients from every hospital and nearly all of Maine’s communities and islands.