The Roseboro Fire Department’s Ride to Fly bike ride — a fundraiser for the town’s future helipad — was deemed a success by fire chief Bobby Owen, news that he was happy to report to commissioners and mayor David Alexander during this week’s town meeting.
In the works for over a year now, the helipad project was kicked into high gear Saturday, Sept. 28 when close to 50 bikers turned out to show their support, reving up their motors to ride a total of 120 miles round trip on a journey that took them from Roseboro’s town park to Moore’s Creek Battlefield in Currie and back.
“We had a good turnout,” noted Owen, pleased with how well the project’s first fundraiser went.
“That was a great day,” commissioner Alice Butler agreed.
In addition to the bike ride, itself, the fire department also held a chicken plate sale at lunch and two gospel groups provided musical entertainment during the day.
The crew of UNC Air Care was expected to pay a visit and land one of their helicopters at the future site of the town’s helipad — just southwest of the fire department in the open area behind Roseboro’s dialysis center — but had to miss the event at the last minute.
“They got a call and had to divert,” said Owen. “They had told me earlier that if they got a call they would have to respond which, of course, I understood.”
The fundraiser brought in $6,200 for the fire department’s helipad project, shared Owen, noting that the amount is “almost half of what we need” to complete the project.
In the days following the fundraiser, Owen took the opportunity to speak to the Woodmen of the World at Mingo, sharing with them the need for a helipad in the Roseboro area and how it could be a benefit to those in the community and those just passing through. Following his presentation, Owen said he received a call from them Thursday morning with a pledge of $500 to the project.
“That brings our total now to around $7,000,” he said, adding that he was still waiting to hear from other businesses, organizations, and individuals who have expressed interest in making contributions.
“My goal is to have the helipad accomplished, completed, finished by September of next year,” Owen shared, mentioning that the cement required for the helipad will be the most costly part of the project.
However, once the rest of the needed funds are raised, the fire department is ready and eager to get construction started, willing to do much of the work themselves. “There’s not a lot to do but there’s a lot of work to it,” Owen said.
“I said in the meeting that it would take about three months to complete the helipad, but if the weather is good and cooperates, I don’t think it will really take that long,” said Owen Thursday afternoon. “It seems a little slow right now but slowly but surely we’ll get there.”
Owen knows that the wait will be worth it when the helipad is completed and available for hospital helicopter crews to use, giving them a place to land safely and to transport patients more effectively.
“There’s been several occasions in the past where it (a helipad) would have been nice to have,” said Owen earlier in the year. “We’ve managed to deal with not having one. We’ve been able to find fields for them to land in, but they [the helicopter pilots] don’t really like to do that because of all the grass that flies around. It can get into the helicopter’s engine and cause problems. They like a clean and clear place to land, and I certainly understand where they’re coming from. They don’t want that grass or debris to give them trouble at that time or on down the road.”
Owen also anticipates that a helipad will be needed all the more once a four-laned Hwy. 24 comes through Sampson County.
“I think it’ll be really helpful as the new highway is made,” he noted. “There will probably be a lot more traffic, a lot more 18-wheelers out there, and it’ll be good to have the helipad when wrecks and things happen.”
“We’re not doing this to make the fire department stand out or anything. The fire department and EMS will take care of it and use it, but it’s really going to be the community’s helipad,” stressed Owen. “It will be a benefit not only for the people in the community but also for anybody passing through who might have a wreck or something, even if they’re out of state.”
To keep up with the Roseboro Fire Department, to view more Ride to Fly pictures, and to see a list of those who helped make the fundraiser possible, please visit the fire department’s Facebook page.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.