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Mercy Flight Central receives $1 million donation, buys four new helicopters

Mercy Flight Central has purchased four Leonardo AW119Kx helicopters like the one shown here. (C7 Photography)
Mercy Flight Central has purchased four Leonardo AW119Kx helicopters like the one shown here. (C7 Photography)

Mercy Flight Central has received a $1 million donation from the Sands Family Foundation as the lead gift for its $5 million Mercy Flight Central Campaign for the Community.

The campaign will help support the agency’s new fleet of four AW119Kx helicopters, which will replace four older helicopters Mercy Flight had been using. At its biennial fundraising gala “Taste for the Race” held in early August, the organization raised some $300,000 toward the campaign.

“Mercy Flight Central is proud to have served this region for nearly three decades, and we are thrilled to announce the purchase of four new IFR-certified AW119Kx helicopters from Leonardo Helicopters,” said Jeff Bartkoski, president and CEO of Mercy Flight Central. “These helicopters will replace our aging fleet, which is costly to maintain and repair. This investment in new aircraft represents a recommitment to the community. We provide service to more than 3 million residents in over 24 counties from our bases in Canandaigua, Marcellus and Rome, N.Y. This new AW119Kx will enable us to continue our life-saving mission for the next three decades with increased safety and efficiency.”

Leonardo Helicopters attended the “Taste for the Race” event and brought its training aircraft so that guests could view the new helicopter.

Ginny Clark, executive director of the Sands Family Foundation, created “Taste for the Race” with NASCAR team owner Richard Childress in 2004. Clark’s family history is deeply entwined with that of Mercy Flight Central. Her daughter, Shaunna, was air lifted by Mercy Flight Central 28 years ago and was its first pediatric patient. When Clark shared Shaunna’s story with her friend Childress, he offered his help to raise money for Mercy Flight Central, and “Taste for the Race” was born.

“Although Shaunna’s accident happened years ago, Mercy Flight Central will always be a cause close to my heart and it brings me great joy to see so many people join together for the cause,” Clark said. “Our family will be forever grateful to Mercy Flight Central for their speed, skill and compassion when our family needed it most.”

Built at Leonardo’s FAA Part 21 production facility in Philadelphia, the AW119 is a best-in-class single engine helicopter featuring a state-of-the-art avionics system for enhanced situational awareness, mission effectiveness and safety by flight and mission avionics, power margin, multiple system redundancies and crashworthiness.

“This community and our friends at Mercy Flight Central are important to us in the NASCAR racing family,” Childress said. “I am personally honored to support ‘Taste for the Race.’”

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