SARANAC LAKE - For 21 years, North Country Life Flight has provided emergency medical flights to residents and visitors of the area free of charge.
Thanks to events like PumpkinFest, held Oct. 9, at Mount Pisgah Ski Center, that tradition can continue.
Hundreds attended the annual festival, enjoying rides, games, crafts, hay rides, face and hair painting, plus great food and music. Also included were sales of baked goods and local crafts, and the Cake Walk, a popular attraction featuring the culinary artistry of local chefs and restaurants.
The event provided a big financial lift to North Country Life Flight, just a week after the organization celebrated its 21st year in existence.
"We fly critically ill patients to get medical treatment," said Mary Jane Connors, president of North Country Life Flight, "and we want them to be as comfortable as possible because we arrive on the worst day of their life."
Based out of Saranac Lake Regional Airport, North Country Life Flight utilizes helicopters from the New York State Police aviation unit to serve the area of New York north and east of Utica. Its main expenses are providing medical equipment, medications, and a combination of paid and volunteer medical personnel who are nationally-certified.
"There's been a 40 percent increase in the number of rescues just in the past year," said Connors, "so the demand for medical transport is high."
The nonprofit organization has hosted PumpkinFest for the past 12 years, one of a few annual fundraisers it relies on to meet its costs and provide service to patients for free.
"What's neat about this event is the children in the community come as volunteers," said Connors, noting how dozens of students from schools throughout the Tri-Lakes area come to help at PumpkinFest. "Last night we had members of the Saranac Lake football team here to set up."