Thanks for supporting us, thanks for the donation, now watch as this baby starts saving lives in a couple of months,” said Jim Sinclair, chairman of the Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Foundation. This was right before he and others broke ground on land that will soon hold a new, easy-access helipad, which will accommodate life flights in traumatic situations.

Although digging at the site had already begun, the official groundbreaking for the project took place Friday at 10 a.m. on the west side of the hospital grounds next to the emergency department, along Washington Avenue.

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The project, which officially lifted off last fall, will cost $616,000, but because of community donations, the foundation has already raised everything short of the last $150,000.  

“The enthusiasm and support and coming together that has occurred around this project...that enthusiasm and commitment to living our mission and our values... is tremendously important for this project and carries over into so much,” said Peter Jacobson, president of Essentia Health-St. Mary’s, who spoke at the groundbreaking.

Sinclair says the support from everybody across the board from community members to St. Mary’s EMS to Sanford Health to full time residents and summer residents, “the whole community has pulled together to put this together.”

Key stakeholders in the project were on-hand for the occasion - an occasion where excitement about the project was palpable, as was the belief that this is one project that will give back in ways that money can’t buy.

Upon first talk of making something like this happen, Sinclair said it was a “pretty big deal” to him, as he’d spent 23 years on the fire department and had driven ambulance. “This place has always been a savior for me,” he said. “I knew if we could get them here, there would be a pretty good chance of them being okay later.” Sinclair added that the project is scheduled to be finished and in operation by September. Right now, the closest available life link helicopter medical transport in Detroit Lakes is at the local airport, which is a 15-minute ride from the hospital, and always made when trauma is worst and every minute counts.

“I don’t know if there’s anything that you can donate to where you’re guaranteed it’s going to save somebody’s life,” Sinclair said, “but this thing...I’ll guarantee you it’ll save somebody’s life within the first year.”