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30th birthday celebrations for Wiltshire Air Ambulance at the Bath Half

Supporters of Wiltshire Air Ambulance braved the elements to help celebrate the service’s 30th birthday while also raising vital funds at the Bath Half Marathon on Sunday (15 March).

Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s runners at the Bath Half Marathon with the charity’s mascot, Wilber.

It was on 15 March 1990 that Wiltshire Air Ambulance began operating. We shared a helicopter full time with Wiltshire Police for 24 years until we became a stand-alone air ambulance in January 2015 using our own helicopter.

At the Bath Half, the 30th birthday theme was evident with our marquee decked with balloons and banners while our paramedic teddy bear mascot, Wilber, wore a 30 badge.

The inclement weather failed to dampen the spirits of supporters, who enjoyed tucking into a special 30th birthday cake made by volunteer Sadia Chant, of Chippenham. It was shaped into the number 30 and covered in meringue kisses.

There was even an appearance in the skies of our Bell 429 helicopter, which flew over the course shortly after the race had begun.

A total of 29 people ran the Bath Half for our charity, reduced after a number understandably withdrew due to the ongoing concerns around the spread of the Coronavirus.

Luke Dark, 25, of Melksham, who was airlifted by Wiltshire Air Ambulance after he suffered serious injuries in a road traffic collision in 2014, proudly completed the course in two hours and 22 minutes sporting yellow and green hair (matching the charity’s colours).

Luke, who is also a volunteer and has our helicopter tattooed on his arm, said: “That’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done, except for when I fought for my life after the accident!

“I’m so glad I’ve done it. So many people had donated to Wiltshire Air Ambulance for my challenge and that’s what inspired me to keep going. It’s the furthest I’ve ever had to run and it was really difficult keeping track with how far I’d gone. When I saw the finish line I just ran as fast I could.”

A returning runner was Ian Norris, an on-call firefighter of Royal Wootton Bassett. He said: “I first got involved with the charity in 2018 when I ran the London Marathon and the support I received was fantastic.

“They lured me into doing the Bath Half last year and the Swindon Half as well and this was my second time taking part in the Bath – I love it, it’s great.

“The charity provides such a critical service. As an on-call firefighter, I’ve been to incidents and worked alongside Wiltshire Air Ambulance paramedics and it’s clear to see the difference they can make.”

Runner Ian Norris.

Kenresa Stratford, events co-ordinator for Wiltshire Air Ambulance, thanked the runners and volunteers who made the Bath Half a special 30th birthday celebration.

“Despite the conditions, it was really special to celebrate our 30th birthday on the same day as the Bath Half Marathon,“ she said.

“Our crews have saved a generation of people and thanks to our fantastic runners at this year’s Bath Half the funds they’ve raised will enable us to continue our lifesaving work. So far the amount raised is over £7,000.”

We would also like to thank Lovejoys Wholesale, Pippin Doughnuts and Sarah Jones of Affinity Bodyworks, Chippenham, for their support on the day.

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