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20 pregnant heifers are the grand prize for Medicine Hat air ambulance lottery

The Medicine Hat medevac helicopter services launched an online lottery Thursday and the grand prize is 20 pregnant heifers, or the equivalent of what they are worth in cash.

The winner can chose the cows or $50,000

The cattle for the lottery are being provided by Highline Angus. (Axel Tardieu/Radio-Canada)

A regional air ambulance service in southern Alberta is offering a very large grand prize, 20 of them to be precise, for a fundraising lottery kicking off Thursday.

HALO Air Ambulance, out of Medicine Hat, serves southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan with a medevac helicopter.

In a typical year, the service would gather most of its operating costs through events, as the majority of its operating budget comes from donations by corporations, citizens and partners at live events.

This year, the organization is holding its first online lottery, the HALO Cattle 'er Cash Lottery. Restrictions on large, in-person gatherings in Alberta prevent the service's usual events.

The grand prize is the choice of $50,000 or 20 bred heifers (young pregnant cows). 

"The feedback so far has been super, super positive," said Paul Carolan, CEO of the air medevac service.

The cows will be provided by presenting sponsor Highline Angus.

The idea to offer heifers as a grand prize came from a former HALO board member with ties to the ranching community, says Carolan.

"The pandemic really forced us to accelerate a move toward a diversified fund development model, he said.

HALO typically receives 90 per cent of its operating budget from donations, with Alberta Health Services reimbursing for the missions HALO flies for the province, says Carolan.

Last year, those dispatches for AHS contributed less than six per cent to its total operating budget.

Carolan says the ambulance service is proud of its agricultural community. He says the grand prize cows are "a natural fit for us and we're excited about the potential."

The lottery launched Thursday with 3,000 tickets available at $100 each. It's offering a series of cash prizes, save for the grand prize option, which offers the choice of heifers or money.

Tickets are available for purchase only within Alberta and the draw closes Nov. 25.

With files from Francois Joly

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