Teton County Search and Rescue

Teton County Search and Rescue volunteer Chris Leigh takes part in helicopter short-haul rescue training on Dec. 4, 2020, in Grand Teton National Park.

The Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation’s annual helicopter fundraising campaign isn’t necessary this year thanks to some private donations.

Those donations will keep the helicopter available for missions through at least the rest of this year, the foundation announced Tuesday.

“These extraordinary gifts mean the Foundation can hit pause on its annual Heli-Yes! campaign and instead focus on supporting a new class of volunteers and re-up team trainings that had been postponed or canceled this past year due to the pandemic,” the foundation’s Director of Communications Matt Hansen said in a news release.

Teton County Search and Rescue is preparing to bring on 10 new volunteers this spring, the team’s first new class since 2015. The new members will be announced in coming weeks.

Bringing on new volunteers means outfitting them with essential rescue gear and equipment, plus paying for rigorous trainings, the foundation said. New volunteers must attend all trainings and then gain certifications before achieving “operational” status — a process that typically takes a year.

The annual helicopter fundraising campaign raises money to keep the rescue helicopter funded and available through the offseason, which in recent years has seen an increase in emergencies.

“These donations benefit the entire community, as it allows the Foundation to ensure uninterrupted helicopter service for Teton County,” Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Thomas said. “Heli-Yes! will continue again next year, but we are excited to be able to focus our efforts this year on supporting the new class and our wonderful volunteers.”

According to the release, some of the donations come from the giving of Foster and Lynn Friess. This year, the Jackson couple gave many of their friends the opportunity to select a favorite charity for a donation. Jerry Blann, former longtime president at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and his wife, Rebecca, designated their Friess gift for the search and rescue heli program, Hansen said. The other helicopter-designated gift came from an anonymous local donor.

The Foundation is asking the community to pitch in to help support the efforts of bringing on a new volunteer class.

“With the Jackson Hole backcountry continuing to see increased use,” the release said, search and rescue “volunteers remain an essential component to the health and safety of our community.”

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066 or courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

Emily Mieure covers criminal justice and emergency news. She also leads the News&Guide’s investigative efforts. She has reported for WDRB TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE TV in Evansville, Ind., and WEIU TV in Charleston, Ill.

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