Twenty-five years ago, when the first major fundraising event for the fledgling Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) program was held by an equally fledgling association representing Canada’s oilfield services sector, few who were involved would have guessed the western-themed charity occasion would still be going strong.
The Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) was launched 37 years ago, in the wake of the disastrous National Energy Program, after the service sector realized they needed their own voice.
Roger Soucy, who was the president and CEO of PSAC until he retired from the organization eight years ago, says what is now known as the PSAC STARS & SPURS Gala, which has raised more than $16 million to support the STARS Air Ambulance program, was a marriage made in heaven.
“The STARS program was a kind of hand-to-mouth existence back then,” he recalls, adding that the program needed a funding source, since at the time it had no government funding. “Meanwhile, PSAC needed a higher profile, beyond those in the oilfield service sector.”
Soucy says initially he and other PSAC board members thought the relationship might last for seven years. Instead it has existed for an incredible 25 years.
Soucy had helped launch PSAC, after heading the oilfield service division of Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC). For the first two years he worked out of the CAODC office, but then PSAC emerged as a separate organization, having more than 300 members at its peak (because of today’s industry downturn that’s down to less than 200).
The PSAC STARS & SPURS Gala has emerged as the “highlight of the year” for PSAC members, STARS supporters and others, attracting well over 1,000 people every year and raising as much as $1 million each year over the past several years.
“It’s outside of what PSAC normally does,” Soucy says. “The oilfield service industry is small and this allows members to raise the profile of the industry and raise money for a good cause.”
One little known outcome of the PSAC and STARS partnership is that the oilfield service companies involved in PSAC, accustomed to working in remote areas, have helped the air ambulance service establish co-ordinates to better find accident victims or others who are in more remote areas.
This year’s event, which is being held on Saturday, January 19, at Calgary’s BMO Centre, is expected to be another success with 1,500 attendees. With less than a month to go, the 25th annual event is 80% sold. Event updates can be found here.
Rod McBride, a retired oilfield service company owner (he owned a production and wireline testing firm), played a role in the creation of the partnership between STARS and PSAC and he remembers how crucial the partnership proved to be for STARS.
“At the time there was no provincial funding and everyone who was involved with STARS was a volunteer [it now has paid staffers, as well as volunteers and offers service in many parts of Western Canada],” he says.
The funding raised during the STARS & SPURS Gala was crucial in its earlier days and remains important.
McBride, a country-western music fan who had also been on the Calgary Stampede board, convinced others with PSAC to adopt a Western theme for the event, which has continued to be the case. Attendees are encouraged to dress in western garb and the event features Country & Western entertainers including such great artists in the past as George Fox and Ian Tyson.
Sticking with the success of the Country & Western genre, the 2019 event will feature headliners Gord Bamford, George Canyon and Arron Pritchett.
In addition, he and other PSAC board members arranged for the artist who has been responsible for the bronze statues seen at various locations during the Calgary Stampede to craft bronze statues every year for the event.
The bronze statues have become collectors’ items over the past 25 years and remain a PSAC STARS & SPURS Gala tradition.
To purchase tickets and a special hand crafted 25th anniversary belt buckle, click here.