For the past five years, staff at Van Arbor Homes in Lethbridge have put their blood, sweat and tears into constructing a dream home to give away as one of the grand prizes in the annual STARS Alberta lottery.
“We’ve been building their (STARS) house since 2018 and we’ve been very proud to do it. It’s a project that we just love and really give our hearts to,” said Val Lowen, owner of the custom home builder.
Every home Van Arbor has built — aside for one — has been named after a STARS patient.
The touching tribute came about as a meaningful way to honour and memorialize Lowen’s oldest daughter who, as an infant, passed away in 1991.
“When this opportunity came, I began to think about it and I said to my husband: ‘I would really like to name the first house after Jenna and that would be then our memorial to her,'” explained Lowen.
“We named the very first one the Jenna Michelle after our darling little girl.”
Even though the family was living on a farm outside of Lethbridge at the time, Lowen admits nothing could have been done to save her daughter, who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Still, she says the importance of having an air ambulance service like STARS isn’t lost on her.
“Especially when we live in areas like Lethbridge where we’re outlying, and we have wonderful, wonderful health care, we have world-class paramedics and people that help us all the way through, but we just aren’t a big enough centre that can handle major types of trauma that might involve much more extensive medical care,” said Lowen.
“So we rely on these people, they are our bridge to get us from a life-taking event to a taking us to a hospital where they can be a life-giving group of emergency care people.”
Funds raised from the year’s lottery, which launched on Thursday, are estimated to be around $11 million. More than 2,500 prizes, valued at more than $4 million, are available to be won by anyone who purchases a ticket for as little as $30. Top prizes include dream homes in Edmonton, Calgary and the one Lowen’s company built in Lethbridge.
“The part we play is very, very, very small but it’s precious to us. And it’s an important piece,” said Lowen. “Likewise, buying one ticket is an important piece.”
The lottery is expected to sell out and should it reach its targeted goal, the funds will be able to sustain one of the three Alberta bases for an entire year.