Pembroke Airport launches Project Runway
On Oct. 4, the Pembroke & Area Airport officially kicked off their Project Runway campaign to raise $1.25-million to repave the runway. Pictured here (from left) are Beachburg Lions Club treasurer Tony Mercier, Beachburg Lions Club secretary Audrey Cormack, Renfrew Industrial Commission (RIC) chairman Ron Brazeau, Wendy Murphy, Laurentian Hills Mayor Jed Reinwald, RIC executive director Dave Lemkay, Kinsmen Club of Pembroke president Lorraine Pecoskie and Pembroke Airport Commission representative Ted Mahood.
The Pembroke & Area Airport is embarking on a campaign to pave their way to a new runway.
Originally known as Brown’s Airfield – a grass strip that was established in 1954 – it wasn’t until 1968 that the municipality purchased the airport and installed 4,000 feet of paved runway. By 1986, an additional 1,000 feet of runway was paved and the Pembroke & Area Airport became one of the longest runways in Eastern Ontario. Ever since that historic year, the runway has not been refurbished and the runway has significantly broken down through years of regular usage.
According to data collected by the Pembroke and Area Airport Commission, there are over 4,800 aircraft movements every year at the airport – which range from life-saving air ambulance services to providing flight opportunities to over 100 local businesses.
Now, decades later, the runway is critically due for a repaving with some fresh asphalt.
On Oct. 4, the Pembroke & Area Airport held a media event to officially launch the campaign that’s been dubbed ‘Project Runway’.
Throughout the airport’s 49 years of history, this marks the first time that they’ve launched a fundraising campaign and are reaching out to the community for financial support.
The campaign is based on one simple ask: that community members support their region’s airport by purchasing a foot of runway for $250. With 5,000 feet of runway and a cost of $250 per foot, the campaign’s ultimate goal is to raise $1.25-million to repave the runway.
“Most people don't feel that they interact much with the airport because they can't come here and fly somewhere as we don't offer a scheduled service. But at this airport, the experience that most people have is one that they never know about,” said Jennifer Layman, marketing coordinator for Pembroke & Area Airport. “They don’t know that this airport hosts 60 air-ambulance movements every year and backs up the Pembroke Regional Hospital, the Deep River & District Hospital and the St. Francis Memorial Hospital. They don’t know that last summer in our drought, the Ministry of National Resources literally slept here and patrolled every day – spotting fires that were burning around Renfrew County and then radioing to the ground fire departments to let them know so they could be put out. They also don’t know that when a man who murdered three women in Wilno, the OPP used this airport to refuel and search for that man. In the words of the OPP officer who was involved with that, he said ‘by having the airport, we probably saved someone else's life that day’.”
In the past month, a few generous donors have already purchased several feet of runway to support the extensive opportunities and benefits that the airport provides to the entire region.
During the Oct. 4 campaign launch, those donors were present to share a few words on the significance behind their contribution and how the airport has personally improved their lives.
The first foot of runway was purchased by Laurentian Hills Mayor Jed Reinwald, on behalf of his young grandson Silas.
“A year and a half ago, my son and my daughter-in-law had a little boy named Silas. There were lots of complications and he had a lot of breathing problems when he was born at the Pembroke Hospital, so they had to airlift him to Ottawa. Unfortunately, the Ornge chopper was not available, so they had to bring a plane down from Toronto instead. But had it not been for this runway, that plane would not have been able to land and my grandson may have not survived,” said Reinwald. “Thankfully, we managed to get him to CHEO where he stayed for four days and afterwards he was able to breathe on his own. Now, a year and a half later, he's a lively baby boy and I'm purchasing the first foot of runway on behalf of my grandson Silas.”
Upon learning about the campaign and hearing Reinwald’s touching story, local resident Wendy Murphy was encouraged to purchase the second foot of runway.
“When I heard the story about Jed's grandson, I knew I wanted to be the second person to purchase a foot of the runway. I look at this airport as insurance for where we live and the possibilities that we would never even imagine, whether it be fighting forest fires or providing air-ambulances for unexpected medical emergencies,” said Murphy. “There's been all kinds of stories of people that have been airlifted out of here because this airport was here and was able to refuel many jets and Ornge. So I hope this campaign is successful and that we can replace this runway so it can become a hub for even more activities.”
Further to Reinwald and Murphy’s contributions, Renfrew Industrial Commission’s Dave Lemkay purchased a foot of runway, Pembroke Airport Commission representative Ted Mahood purchased a foot and the Beachburg Lions Club purchased a whopping four feet of runway with their $1,000 donation.
“That's what service clubs do is we participate in events, raise money through different efforts and it's our responsibility to turn that money back into the good of the community,” said Tony Mercier, treasurer for the Beachburg Lions Club. “So we’re happy to do this and we challenge other service clubs in the area – be they Kiwanis Clubs, Kinsmen Clubs or Rotary Clubs – to match our donation.”
For those interested in making a donation to the Project Runway Campaign, contact 613-732-7774 and visit flycyta.ca for more information.