BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Mercy Flight’s biggest fundraiser is back.

Since its inception in 1981 as New York’s first air ambulance service, Mercy Flight has flown more than 30,000 patients — serving as “a beacon of hope when minutes matter.”

“Mercy Flight is family and we put people first,” said Tommy LaBelle, a flight paramedic and clinical outreach coordinator for Mercy Flight. “Anytime you can walk away from any situation knowing that a person is gonna be reunited with their family had it not been for the efforts of Mercy Flight, there are really no words that I could put together to express that.”

From call to transport, it’s a very precise operation. Everything inside the aircraft is specifically weighed and has its place, including each crew member.

“It’s down to such a science that if we were going to move inside the aircraft, we have to notify the pilot when and where and to what side we’re gonna be moving so that he can account for that movement inside the aircraft while we’re flying,” LaBelle said.

The life-saving mission of Mercy Flight is celebrated during its annual BASH. From DJ Milk to Nerds Gone Wild, this night of food, drink, music and fireworks supports their critical work.

“We look at bashes as really a great way for people who wanna support us to come out and do that and have a good time and like we say, ‘party with a purpose,'” said Scott Wooton, Mercy Flight’s executive vice president. “Mercy Flight as an organization has had a bit of a rollercoaster year and really we just can’t thank everybody out there enough for continuing to support us.”

All of the proceeds from the event help them offset the increasing cost of emergency medical services, as Mercy Flight never forces its patients into financial hardship.

“It’s always been our mission — started by Doug Baker, our founder — to put patients first and put profits second, or even further down the list if we can,” Wooton said. “It’s really about trying to bring people care in their time of need and not follow that up with a financial hardship on top of a health hardship.”

With the recent passing of Baker, this year’s BASH holds even more significance.

“Mr. Baker really meant the world to all of us and a lot of people,” Wooton said. “We’re gonna miss him tremendously. We know he enjoyed BASH and it’s certainly gonna be a special year as we remember Mr. Baker.”

Mercy Flight remains one of the last few not-for-profit providers of both air and ground medical transport services, and Baker’s vision of helping those in need with unparalleled care lives on.

“It’s not just a place where you come in, punch in and out, and call it a day,” Wooton said. “It’s really a place where everybody’s giving their all, all the time, and doing it as a team and doing it with compassion and putting patients first.”

“Mercy Flight is not just something that you do, it’s something that is a part of us,” LaBelle said. “It extends into my family, into my wife and my children, and to everybody else. This is a family atmosphere, and we take that family atmosphere and translate it into compassion for the community.”

The BASH for Mercy Flight takes place Saturday, Sept. 24 from 7 to 11 p.m. at Buffalo RiverWorks. Both Dave Greber and Jordan Norkus will be emceeing the event. Tickets can be purchased here.

Jordan Norkus is an award-winning anchor who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.