LIVES will be saved for years to come thanks to the immense generosity of Wiltshire Times readers, who have been working hard for more than a year to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Airbase Appeal.

We asked readers at the start of 2017 to think big and come up with weird, wacky, and challenging ways to raise money for our lifesaving heroes, and as a result, more than £800,000 has been raised.

Since last January, we have told stories of people across the county who have gone above and beyond to raise funds for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance appeal, from head shaves and dog shows, to sky dives and even a couple who used their wedding day as a way to raise money.

It’s time to bring the appeal to a close and thanks to everyone’s hard work, the Airbase Appeal has been able to fly high and the charity is now working from its new airbase at Semington, near Melksham.

Chief executive of Wiltshire Air Ambulance David Philpott said: “We’d like to thank the Wiltshire Times and their readers for their brilliant support of our Airbase Appeal. The weekly news coverage for the appeal has really helped to raise awareness about our service and the importance of our new airbase.

“It is something that we are very proud of and everyone who has raised funds for it should be equally as proud.

“The purpose-built facility will secure our future and enable us to continue saving lives for years to come.

“The response to our Airbase Appeal to raise the remaining monies to complete the build has been excellent.

“We’d like to thank everyone who generously donated, from individuals, community groups, schools to businesses and grant making trusts.

"People really got behind the appeal and raised funds in a variety of ways, including head shaves, long distance walks and skydives."

The custom-built airbase will bring together the charity’s fundraising, administrative and operational teams all under one roof.

The helicopter and aircrew are due to relocate permanently by the end of this month following a phased introduction of daytime and night-time flying, and it is hoped the aircraft will be fully operational from the new airbase and permanently located there from early June.

The total bill for the new airbase has come in under budget, costing around £4.25 million, compared to the original estimate of £5.1 million.

Surplus funds from the airbase appeal, and any money due to come from already planned events, will fund the ongoing operation of the air ambulance. Mr Philpott added: “Wiltshire Air Ambulance has been saving lives for over 28 years, but we have only been able to do that thanks to the amazing generosity of our supporters.

Now that we have moved into our new airbase, the challenge remains for us to raise the £3.25 million we need each year to keep operating our lifesaving service."

The charity is keen t point out that visits to the new airbase are by appointment only.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance's address is now: Wiltshire Air Ambulance, Outmarsh, Semington, Wiltshire, BA14 6JX. It's new phone number is 01225 300536.