UCSSAR Home
This sample fund-raising letter from a few years ago provides an excellent overview of why your part in supporting Search and Rescue is so valuable:

YOUR NEIGHBOR WENT FOR A SHORT ATV RIDE THIS MORNING,
BUT SOMETHING WENT WRONG
AND NOW HE’S COLD, HUNGRY AND HURT.

WHAT WILL YOU DO TO HELP HIM?

Dear . . .

My name is Brent Ripley, and I’m writing you on behalf of the current officers and directors of the Utah County Volunteer Search and Rescue Team.

Our team is asking for donations to help buy critical rescue equipment. You are an important part of the fabric of Utah County and its citizens, and we thank you in advance for taking the time to read this letter and learn a little bit more about us and our needs.

What you do with this letter will have a very real impact in someone’s life – someone who lives and works here in Utah County.

WHAT WE DO

In association with Utah County Sheriff’s Department, our organization is involved in approximately 100 rescue efforts each year. Within the past 12 months, we've been involved in efforts surrounding avalanches, vehicle rollovers, missing children, lost hikers and hunters, fallen climbers, stuck cavers, lost alzheimers patients, marooned boaters, and stranded snowmobilers. Many of these rescues involved serious, life-threatening injuries.

For example, late last fall, two brothers decided to go duck hunting at Bird Island, a small island off Lincoln Point in Utah Lake. On the way, their boat capsized leaving them stranded in 40° water. Our rescuers set out with wave runners that had rescue paddle boards affixed to the back.

(One thing many people don't realize is that cold water removes heat from the body 25 times faster than cold air. Physical activity such as swimming, or other struggling in the water increases heat loss. Strong swimmers have died before swimming 100 yards in cold water.)

When our rescuers reached them, one of the brothers was still conscious but the other was motionless and appeared dead. As our rescuers were in the water working to load the conscious victim, he told them, "take care of my brother first -- I think he's gone." In fact, in the words of Chris Reed, a longtime EMT and SAR volunteer, speaking of this other unconscious victim, they had a hard time maneuvering him on the equipment because "his arms were straight out in front of him, as stiff as a board." The rescuers took the victims straight to the nearest shoreline where they saw that the unconscious victim was not breathing nor could they feel a pulse. They began CPR and then used defibrillation paddles to try to revive him. This continued for nearly 20 minutes, with the victim occasionally attempting to breathe before seizing and going motionless again.

Once the transport helicopter arrived our rescuers insisted that CPR be continued since, in their opinion, the victim’s color appeared improved. He was transported to the University of Utah medical Center where he underwent three hours of mechanical CPR, a heart bypass operation and gastric lavage to warm him, and three days of sedation in the ICU. The treating doctors said his core temperature was 75.2° when he arrived at the hospital. That anyone could survive a core temperature that low is astounding, but four days after arriving, he was interacting with his family and recovering very quickly. Miraculously, long-term medical effects appear to be negligible and he should lead a normal healthy life.

Needless to say, it was very satisfying when he, his brother, and his wife and child came to our monthly meeting to thank our team for its efforts.

We relate this example to show that a quick response by qualified and dedicated rescuers very often literally means the difference between life and death. These brothers certainly would not have survived much longer, and theirs is not the only example we could give.

We also want to impress upon you that our efforts are meaningful mostly to the residents of Utah County. The people we rescue are not far removed in a distant land, but are our neighbors, friends, and families. As much as we need to help victims of foreign disasters such as victims of the recent tsunami, we believe charity begins at home and relatively small donations by generous and dedicated citizens such as yourself go a long way toward saving lives of people you might run into at the local grocery store.

CHALLENGES WE FACE

Utah County is unique. We have mountain peaks rising to almost twelve thousand feet within only a few miles of a large, shallow lake. We have a large, outdoor-loving population within minutes of isolated wilderness and fast-flowing streams.

All of this provides us with serious challenges. Unlike many search and rescue organizations which specialize in only one type of rescue (such as technical mountain rescue or open water rescue), our team must be very good at many types of rescue. We have climbing specialists, SCUBA specialists, swift-water specialists, cavers, K9 operators, and medics.

It isn’t whether someone from our valley will need us,
it’s who, when and how...

WHO WE ARE

Our organization is made up entirely of volunteers who donate their time, talents, and equipment not only to our rescue efforts but to the training which is so important to those efforts. We have between 40 and 50 members at any given time. In our day jobs, we are doctors, mechanics, lawyers, graphic designers, teachers, investment advisors, home builders, nurses, paramedics, and engineers. In fact, one of the founding members of our team is the President of the Utah Senate.

Our volunteers are required to provide virtually all their own outdoor rescue and survival gear. This usually consists of just about any piece of outdoor equipment you can think of from SCUBA gear to climbing gear to cold water, snow and avalanche gear. In addition to providing equipment, members must commit to training and incident response throughout the year. This commitment of time and financial resources is considerable.

We are one of only five fully certified Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) teams in Utah. In addition, we are certified by the State of Utah as a Level I (intermediate) EMT organization, the same as most municipal ambulance services. We are also organized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so any donation you make to us is tax-deductible (you must see your accountant for further details).

WHAT WE NEED

We need gifts from community donors so we can purchase several pieces of team equipment that will greatly help us in rescue situations.

Rescues are demanding events. It’s usually not a simple matter of finding the victim and bringing him or her out. Rough terrain, distance from roads, the safety of team members, and the victim’s medical and emotional condition are all complicating factors. A winter rescue usually involves additional challenges such as snow travel, short days, and wet, freezing conditions, all of which can be deadly for victims who were not likely prepared for them.

Additionally, we must always plan for the safety of our team members by providing complete logistical support. For our sake and the sake of the victim, the less time we spend in the field – winter or otherwise – the better.

Removing victims from an incident scene and transporting them to an ambulance is especially critical and almost always the most time consuming part of a rescue event. Transport is usually complicated by darkness, canyons, steep hillsides, and cliffs where the accidents occur. Extrication can be slow and painful for a cold, tired, and injured person who is far from roads.

For example, a recent rescue involved a man whose four-wheeler tipped over backwards, landing on him and injuring his ribs and pelvis. He was deep in a side drainage up Spanish Fork Canyon. By the time we reached him, he was cold, tired, scared and in severe pain.

We treated him for his condition and then warmly packaged him in a rescue litter. By this time it was after 10:00 p.m. The trail was well-packed and somewhat rutted from other snowmobiles and four wheelers. Owing to his location and the time of night, no helicopter transport was available. We either had to carry him out or pull him on a litter behind an ATV or snowmobile. It would have taken hours to carry him out, so he was slowly pulled to a waiting ambulance at the mouth of the drainage.

While we did the best we could to steady his ride, it was a long and painful journey. Snow is not always soft!

Another example is that of a cross-country skier who, while skiing alone up the South Fork of Provo Canyon, fell and broke his femur (the thigh bone). A femur injury itself is often life threatening, and he was stranded alone in the snow for nearly 8 hours before he was found by another group of skiers. Needless to say, he was very tired and in a great deal of pain by the time our medical team reached him. We had to transport him from his accident location the same way as with the earlier example.

While we always take every measure to ensure that our victim is safe and stable before being transported, the circumstances of backcountry rescue sometimes make transport very difficult.

If either of the above victims had been more critically injured, it would've been even trickier to remove them from the accident scene in a timely fashion. The bottom line is that we must enhance our ability to safely and comfortably transport victims when time is of the essence and helicopters aren’t available. We need your help to do so.

SPECIFIC EQUIPMENT WE NEED RIGHT AWAY

1) We believe we can better transport backcountry accident victims by using an ambulance sled or trailer that we can pull with our snowmobiles and ATVs. The sleds have full suspension and plenty of cargo space, so they will also help us protect medical equipment and critical rescue gear that is often difficult to transport with a snowmobile or ATV. We need your help to purchase these sleds.

Use of these sleds will greatly reduce the possibility of further complicating an injury during overland transport. We need two of them. Each costs approximately $5,600 before shipping.

2) We have another need associated with difficult and lengthy rescues. Many rescues are multi-day events requiring complex logistical support. For example, during the catastrophic avalanche that occurred near Aspen Grove last winter, our team spent many days working the scene and looking for victims.

Searching for victims of an avalanche is very difficult and tiring. It's critical to the rescue effort that searchers have enough food and drink to keep them healthy and energetic.

Each member brings sufficient food and water for 24 hours on any rescue, but for large multi-day events, we need a medium-sized enclosed trailer within which we could store team food, drink, replacement gear, emergency shelter, our generator, lighting and extension cords, and other necessities such as large stoves for cooking and warming food. This would allow our members to keep their packs intact and ready for backcountry rescues when they will be more isolated.

The trailer should not be too large for a medium-sized SUV to pull on any grade. The Wells Cargo Single-Axle Tote Wagon with V-Front, or similar trailer made by another company, would be an ideal trailer for our needs.

Of course, if your organization sees fit to donate the funds for any of this equipment, your company's name and logo would be prominently and tastefully situated on the equipment itself at no additional cost to you. As you must be aware, we get significant media coverage on many of our events. Citizens of our county would certainly appreciate your generous support.

3) Many of our members are very capable SCUBA divers, but unfortunately rescue SCUBA equipment is very different from recreational SCUBA equipment. We need a number of SCUBA helmets that will allow us to be in radio contact with our divers and maintain the proper safety threshold that we owe our volunteers. Each helmet costs between approximately $600 and $800, and we need a minimum of six.

PLEASE HELP ANY WAY YOU CAN

If you can’t help us at this time with our larger equipment needs, cash donations of any amount are very helpful. The team provides some rescue gear such as ropes and webbing, litters, and medical gear. This equipment needs constant updating and monitoring.

We also consider in-kind donations of up-to-date reliable equipment, ranging from ATVs, snowmobiles, PWCs, trailers, and other devices.

Also, because we are MRA certified, we must send representative members to a multi-day re-certification event each year. We don’t want our members to travel and lodge at their own expense if we can avoid it. This year, the event is being held at Brighton Ski Resort – a stone’s throw away. Last year, it was in Anchorage, Alaska.

Cash is also helpful toward funding training exercises. Ongoing training is critical to our mission. We train every month, not only for rescue scenarios, but also for medical and transport scenarios. While training is not a large expense, we do need some equipment to keep it challenging and relevant.

Again, we appreciate any donation you see fit to make. We provide our donors with gifts that are suitable for their business entrance lobby or anywhere else in their home or facility so they can proudly show their support for our search and rescue organization. Donors at the highest suggested level will also receive an attractive fleece jacket with our organization’s logo and a statement tastefully identifying them as generous donors.

We are confident that as your friends, clients and customers see your support of our organization, they will understand your commitment to our community. To help you determine the level of support which is most appropriate for your organization to provide, we offer the following suggested donation schedule:
Gifts of $5000 or more A handsome thank-you plaque engraved with your name and our logo, a team photo and framed thank you letter, Fleece jacket with team logo

Gifts of $2501-$5000

A handsome thank-you plaque engraved with your name and our logo, a team photo and framed thank you letter

Gifts of $1001-$2500

Team photo and framed thank you letter
Gifts under $1000 framed thank you letter

Thank you,

Board of Directors Signatures

P.S. It seems like everyone in Utah County knows someone we have helped. Your generosity and goodwill will be appreciated for years to come – and will, without a doubt, eventually help save the life of someone right here in our community. When was the last time you were able to do that?

P.P.S. Why do we ask for donations instead of charge a fee to those we rescue? This is a legitimate question and is the subject of some debate in the rescue community. Some believe that a rescue fee deters risky behavior. Many organizations, especially those associated with National Parks (such as Denali National Park in Alaska and Zion National Park here in Utah) will charge a fee in many cases.

While we acknowledge a potential rescue fee may deter risky behavior, we know that it also deters requests for help, even from people in dire situations. So far, we have been able to serve the citizens of our county without having them pay money for it. Whether we ever begin to charge a fee is ultimately for the Sheriff to determine, but we hope to continue to provide our services free of charge for a long time.

NOTE: our specific equipment needs have changed since the writing of this letter. Please contact us for an updated list of needs. Thank you!