Why I Volunteer

 

The selfless volunteers who devote their time, talent and energy have made it possible for us to complete more than 26,500 patient missions over the last 36 years. While there are few words to explain the impact Mercy Flight's volunteers have in the community and our organization, we are truly indebted to each and every one of them. Today, we highlight some of the amazing people who volunteer at Mercy Flight:


Dr. Kathleen Lillis, Mercy Flight Medical Director

Dr. Lillis obtained her MD from University at Buffalo, and completed a pediatric residency at Rainbow Babies and Children's. She then went on to complete her pediatric emergency medicine fellowship at St. Louis Children's Hospital. 

Through college, Dr. Lillis became familiar with Mercy Flight. At the time, Mercy Flight was looking for a Pediatric Medical Director and the opportunity would soon be the beginning of Dr. Lillis devoting her time, knowledge and talent in aiding Mercy Flight. She was a strong advocate for the installation of the helipad at Women's and Children's Hospital to ensure critically ill children can be transported as quickly as possible. Twenty-five years later, she remains an intricate part of our organization. 





What does the Western New York Community mean to you?

"I grew up in Western New York, I grew up in South Buffalo. I left Western New York for five years to complete my training. I traveled to Cleveland, Toronto, and St. Louis, but I knew Western New York was my home, so when I finished my training, I moved back to Western New York. I believe this is a special place, and I wanted to raise my family here."

How has someone you know been affect by Mercy Flight?

"I had friends who had children taken for injuries. I recall an incident at one of the ski resorts, not knowing it at the time, I gave medical direction for their son while he was in the helicopter."

Why do you volunteer at Mercy Flight?

"I think it's important to give back to the community, I've been fortunate enough to have a successful career in medicine and I think it's important to give back. I try to use my talents and my knowledge in a way to help those that may not have otherwise had that experience."

How has volunteering at Mercy Flight changed the way you look at life?

"We say all the time at Mercy Flight that "minutes matter" and what happens prior to getting a patient to a hospital can sometimes be more important than what happens when they get to the hospital. If the life-saving initiatives are performed to their optimal capacity, then it can have a life or death impact prior to the patient arriving to the hospital. It's a critical time and it's important to optimize what we do in a pre-hospital setting."


Dr. Anthony Billittier IV, Mercy Flight Medical Director

Moving back to Buffalo in 1991 after training in emergency medicine and emergency medical services, Dr. Billittier joined UB to help start a residency program, and became the department's contact person for Emergency Medical Services.

In addition to his involvement at UB, Dr.
Billittier has worked at ECMC, which ultimately lead to his work with Mercy Flight that has spanned more than 25 years.









What does the Western New York Community mean to you?

"This is home. Except for the four years I spent in Pittsburgh, this is where I was born, raised and 
have lived. You see some people who think the grass is greener and leave and realize the grass isn't greener. I like the area, the people, and the patients that we help."

Why do you volunteer at Mercy Flight?

"It's very satisfying. And, it's not just the helicopters anymore. Several years ago, we expanded into Genesee County with the provision of ground ambulance service that most recently expanded further into the Town of Concord and the Town of Niagara. For the most part, initially the Flight Medical Directors weren't involved with ground operations directly, but that has changed. We're now very involved in two general ways providing medical oversight; online (actually talking to the medical team) and offline (developing written policies and procedures, participating in quality improvement and educating our team).

The other night, a paramedic 
called me with questions about a patient who was being transported with a terminal illness. After talking about it for a number of minutes, we decided the best way to transport the patient to ensure he was comfortable during his ride to a hospital where his family was waiting. That made me feel good. I think the big deal is the nurses, medics and EMTs at the other end. They make or break us, so when they call, they need to be good and need to be right because I make decisions with them based on what they're telling me. I must add that we have great providers."

How has volunteering at Mercy Flight changed the way you look at life?

"My experience with Mercy Flight and emergency medicine has made me look at life differently. I sometimes remind my children that no one is dying when they start to sweat the small stuff. Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people who never saw it coming. Suddenly their lives are transformed in a split second. We see it all the time — and, I try to appreciate and enjoy every moment of life now."

 

Eileen Kelchlin, Mercy Flight Board Member & LAKEFEST Committee Member

For close to 20 years, Eileen has advocated and volunteered her time to help Mercy Flight fulfill its mission. After a life-altering incident, Eileen, who worked at IBM at the time, encouraged her co-workers to dedicate their own "Day of Caring" to Mercy Flight.

Lead by Eileen, a crew of "IBM'ers" headed out to the old Mercy Flight base — which at the time was three rented trailers and a battered 60-year old hangar at a public heliport near Woodlawn Beach — and went to work.  This continued for a couple of years until her neighbors in Wilson inquired about their volunteer activity with Mercy Flight. From that same inquiry was born Lakefest, a successful summertime fundraiser for Mercy Flight held in Wilson, NY for 12 years, with the venue moving to Franklinville in 2016 and to the Town of Niagara this year. In addition to her work with her fellow "IBM'ers" and Lakefest Friends of Mercy Flight, Eileen has served for many years on the Mercy Flight Board of Directors and currently serves as Vice-Chairperson.



How has someone you know been affect by Mercy Flight?

"I was rescued by Mercy Flight on 10/16/99 when I was struck by a car while jogging on Union Road & East & West in West Seneca. I sustained multiple injuries which required an extended stay at ECMC. Mercy Flight happened to be in the area returning from a call where they were not required. I was transported to ECMC in record time and taken into surgery to address serious head trauma, broken arms, clavicle, and broken ribs, among other injuries."

Why do you volunteer at Mercy Flight?

"My impression of the Mercy Flight team is one of awe & inspiration.  The selfless & compassionate attitude of all employees is immediately noticeable. I am beyond thankful to be a part of the Mercy Flight family and will be forever grateful for the timely manner in which they rescued me and saved my life! This organization deserves our unconditional support — they are there for us when minutes matter!"

How has volunteering at Mercy Flight changed the way you look at life?

"The pilots, nurses, EMT's, paramedics, ambulance drivers, dispatchers, administrators are all to be commended for an incredible contribution to the WNY community.  The number of lives that have been saved due to the speed, efficiency & knowledge of the Mercy Flight staff is innumerable."


Mary Lynne Tarquini, Alden Auto Show Committee Member

As a committee member for the Alden Auto Show, formerly known as the Marilla Auto Show, Mary Lynne continues to donate a tremendous amount of time to make sure WNY's biggest auto and motorcycle show is a success.

Working alongside an all-volunteer staff, Mary Lynne is committed to an event that hosts local and national celebrities, raffles, food, local and national vendors, and presents more than 200 awards — all to raise funds for Mercy Flight. A decade later, Mary Lynne's passion for helping others is evident as she remains dedicated to supporting Mercy Flight through the 13th annual Alden Auto Show.






What does the Western New York Community mean to you?

"People come together in this community, I think it's because we never know when something can change our lives."

How has someone you know been affect by Mercy Flight?

"I know someone's daughter who was helped by Mercy Flight. Having the capability to transport patients in helicopters when time is crucial can be the difference between life and death in many cases — the Alden Auto was created after a patient was helped by Mercy Flight."

Why do you volunteer at Mercy Flight?

"I truly believe Mercy Flight offers something that is needed. When I think about it, my daughter was in a snowmobile accident and she did not need Mercy Flight, but had she needed someone to be there, Mercy Flight would've been there. I'm dedicated to helping and raising money for Mercy Flight because of everything that they've done. You can't put a price tag on being there for someone, I will do anything to keep this service in the area."

How has volunteering at Mercy Flight changed the way you look at life?

"Life is precious, you see in a moment that it can be taken away, but also Mercy Flight can make a difference. You really want to work and volunteer for an organization that is important to you and can make a difference.Life is precious, you see in a moment that it can be taken away, but also Mercy Flight can make a difference. You really want to work and volunteer for an organization that is important to you and can make a difference."

There are many ways to show your support, you can sponsor a mission, host a fundraiser, donate funds or legacy gifts, or volunteer.