WVAC honors members, celebrates 40 years of service
To celebrate its 40 years of service, the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WVAC) will throw a party for past and present members and their families at Merwin Meadows Park on Saturday, Sept. 17, from noon to 6.
“The WVAC is a volunteer emergency medical service that provides 911 emergency ambulance coverage to the town of Wilton with two state-of-the-art Basic Life Support ambulances,” said Brian McDermott, a volunteer WVAC emergency medical technician (EMT).
McDermott joined the WVAC after he accidentally severed a major artery while on duty as a Community Emergency Response Team member at the Wilton Street Fair two years ago.
“The WVAC and Wilton Fire Department came to my aide and saved my life,” he said. “Giving back to the the organization that saved me seemed like the best way to say thank you and continue to pay it forward.”
The WVAC 40th Anniversary Celebration will feature catered buffet-style barbecue, music, and two video memory screens displaying pictures and articles from the past 40 years of the corps’ history.
McDermott said some founding members of the WVAC will also share stories about the corps history and its evolution over time.
The first ambulances in Wilton were purchased by the Wilton Kiwanis Club. The first was a used Packard in 1953, and the second was a modified 1969 Cadillac hearse.
In 1969, the Wilton Police Department became fully responsible for the operation of the town’s ambulance, according to an old letter to the editor from former Wilton ambulance driver Jack Cahill.
Shortly thereafter, in 1972, the town traded its 1969 Cadillac for new, red and white Miller-Meteor ambulance.
According to the WVAC website, police and firemen who responded to medical calls in town were focused more on speed rather than patient care, and rarely had medical training beyond applying oxygen and packaging patients for transport.
Wilton Library History Room/Wilton Historical Society photos
To ease the burden on police and fire personnel, Wilton First Selectwoman Rosemarie Verrilli formed the Wilton Ambulance Council in August 1976 to find a suitable system of emergency medical care for the town.
Cahill was named chair of the council and its members included Wilton’s fire chief, volunteer fire chief, police chief, career firemen, volunteer firefighters and interested prospective EMT.
After determining the town needed an ambulance corps, the council held a meeting in the fall for put a note in The Wilton Bulletin asking anyone interested in being a part of such a corps to attend a meeting in the fall of 1976.
The WVAC was established soon after the well-attended meeting, and Thomas Wetzel became its first president.
On July 4, 1977, the WVAC received its first call to the town fireworks for someone with a possible broken leg.
The WVAC became independent from the town several years ago and is now a full-volunteer service that relies completely on patient billings and private donations from citizens and local businesses , said McDermott.
“There is a big misconception that WVAC is funded from the taxpayers of Wilton,” he said. “In reality, the town of Wilton only contributes less than 15% of our annual budget for things like insurance.”
Today, the WVAC receives about 1,400 calls a year and has approximately 45 members, which include EMTs and emergency medical responders (EMRs).
“Our members are made up of all kinds,” said McDermott. “From high-achieving high school and college students paving their way to future careers in medicine, to members who work full time jobs in other fields, and retirees.”
McDermott said the WVAC is successful because of its members, who “give so much of themselves.”
“The 36 hours of minimum shift time required of our members just scratches the surface of the commitments they make to the corps,” said McDermott.
“There are ongoing training meetings once a month to help us be able to pass our state EMT or EMR re-certifications,” he said. “There are once-a-month business meetings and many committees that we ask our members to sit on to help run the corps behind the scenes.”
WVAC members also volunteer outside their shift hours for special events, said McDermott, such as the Wilton Go Green Festival, Ambler Farm Day and Wilton Street Fair.
The 40th Anniversary Celebration, McDermott said, is “a great way to celebrate” the WVAC’s “truly remarkable” members.
All WVAC 40th Anniversary Celebration guests must register in advance online. To learn more about the WVAC, visit wiltonambulance.org.