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Eastern Alberta town of Wainwright successfully raises millions for vital medical equipment

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WATCH ABOVE: People from the Wainwright area pulled to raise $2.2 million for a CT scanner in the eastern Alberta town, despite the pandemic affecting fundraising events. Sarah Komadina reports. – Jan 2, 2022

Born and raised just outside of Wainwright, Alta. Bryan Perkins knows his community is capable of anything — even if it’s raising $2.2 million in a pandemic.

“There might have been doubters, but I was not among them,” Perkins said.

He knew how important it was and why: the Wainwright Health Centre needed a CT scanner.

Right now, people from the town and surrounding area need to travel as far 200 kilometers away to get a scan.

“It was a real surprise to me (to learn) that three to four thousand people from this region are going to Edmonton or Camrose for a CT scan every year.”

The journey started in 2018 when the local Rotary Club and health foundation were looking for a project. Family physician Dr. Beverly Brilz suggested the groups raise money for a CT scanner.

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The Wainwright Health Centre in Wainwright, Alta. in December 2021. Global News

Brilz said it’s much more detailed than an X-ray and can show if there is a brain bleed or abdominal trauma.

“If we get a CT scan, we can see if the patient is safe to stay in Wainwright or if he needs to go to the city,” Brilz said.

She said some seniors who don’t drive will sometimes miss crucial appointments because they can’t find a ride.

Read more: Alberta announces $6M program to increase doctors in rural communities

The fundraising effort started of really well; the local paper was keeping track of the progress with a mascot known as “scanner man.”

“Every fundraiser you saw in town would be for the CT scanner,” Wainwright Star publisher Roger Holmes said.

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“I think partly because we kept it in front of people. It was forefront in this community’s mind and I think scanner man had something to do with that,” he said.

Scanner man on the front of the Wainwright Star newspaper in Wainwright, Alta. Global News

“This is a big project, and we have done big projects before in this town — we built a twin arena not very long ago.

“The people in Wainwright, if they are challenged, they will rise to the challenge for their community.”

Then the pandemic hit, and it became unclear how fundraising would continue.

Banquets and other gatherings were forced to cancel.

But community members in Wainwright didn’t stop. Kids put together lemonade stands when it was safe, fundraising shifted online and Perkins and his wife even put up a quarter section of land.

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Read more: Lemonade stands pop up across Alberta in support of Edmonton children’s hospital

“We planted a crop in a drought year,” Perkins said. “That particular crop was probably the best canola crop we had this year.”

The crop alone raised $150,000 and about another $40,000 came from people paying to join the crew.

“It made it fun, and extremely satisfying that we had so many individuals, groups and businesses working together to make it happen.”

By November of this year, it was official: $2.2 million was raised and scanner man is now all red.

“I am just really proud that our community can pull together in a way we can over three years. There was no government funding — $2.2 million dollars all came from individuals, businesses and organizations in this community working together,” Perkins said.

Right now, a room for the CT scanner is being built at the hospital and the hope is it will be up and running by the summer.

Holmes said there are already ideas coming forward for the next big project. They are adding ideas to a list that is being run in the paper every week,

“The list is starting to grow, sort of like scanner man, only full of ideas.”

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The scanner was delivered to the hospital on Dec. 30.

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