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Helipad nearly ready to take flight: Essentia’s Sept. 28 Fire & Ice benefit to aid in clearing final funding hurdle

The new helipad near the emergency department at Essentia Health-St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes is nearing completion. The hospital foundation's Sept. 29 Fire & Ice benefit will help clear the final fundraising hurdle for the $616,000 project. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

The first helicopter could be touching down on the new helipad at Essentia Health-St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes by the end of this month.

"They're putting in the sprinklers today, so we're getting really close (to completion)," said Jim Sinclair, chairman of the Essentia Health-St. Mary's Foundation, on Thursday.

"It has to go through an inspection by both the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) first," added Foundation Director LeAnn Mouw, saying they anticipate the helipad will be cleared for use sometime during the last week in September.

The EHSM Foundation has spearheaded the $616,000 project to build a raised concrete helipad near the hospital's emergency department, which was launched last fall with a fundraising campaign.

"Our foundation board wanted it to be completed this summer," Mouw said, so with financial backing from parent organization Essentia Health, they were able to break ground in June.

"But we still have about $100,000 left to raise," Sinclair said, so the proceeds of the foundation's annual Fire & Ice fundraiser will hopefully help them clear that last hurdle.

Set for Friday, Sept. 28, the benefit will take place at the Detroit Lakes-Becker County Airport, inside the Schultz Family Hangar.

Starting at 6 p.m., there will be a gourmet dinner catered by La Barista, wine and beer tasting, live music from Tim Eggebraaten, a silent auction, games — and a raffle to give away a New York vacation package.

Each person who purchases one of the limited number of $60 tickets to attend Fire & Ice will have a chance to win the New York trip, Mouw said.

"It includes round-trip airfare and a three-night stay at a hotel in Times Square," she added.

A LifeLink III helicopter and its crew will be present at the airport throughout the fundraiser, Sinclair said, so guests can look around inside and ask questions about its use.

"We have three helicopter services that will be making use of the helipad," he added, noting that besides LifeLink, which is based in Alexandria and Brainerd, there will also be helicopters from Fargo-based Sanford AirMed and the Twin Cities-based North Memorial (which also has crews based in Bemidji and Brainerd) flying in as needed.

"We hope to have a ribbon cutting sometime in early October," Mouw said.

"We want a helicopter there, so it has to be approved and ready to roll first — though hopefully, not needed for a while," Sinclair said. "Chances are, however, that it won't be long before the helipad gets used once it's available."

For more information, or to make a direct donation toward the helipad project, please call 218-844-0719, send an email to FoundationSMDL//

Tickets for the Sept. 29 Fire & Ice benefit can be purchased at the hospital gift shop in Detroit Lakes, online at, or by phone at 218-844-0719. More information about the helipad grand opening will be made available once a date has been set.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

(218) 844-1454