Fundraiser planned for local search and rescue group

If you find yourself in distress in the wilderness of north-central West Virginia, there is a good chance your rescuers might be members of the Mountaineer Area Rescue Group, Inc. (MARG). 

When the search is on for a missing person or someone becomes lost, ill or injured on an outdoor adventure and needs rescued, MARG members answer that call. 

Based in Morgantown, the MARG team – who are all volunteers – includes experts in various types of search tactics, search management, technical rescues and evacuations, wilderness medicine and patient care, handlers for all types of search and rescue dogs and more.  

When a person is lost or missing, the MARG team can be mobilized in an hour or less and will respond to rescue missions carrying field-portable first aid, communications and any other rescue equipment the situation calls for. 

The nonprofit organization receives no public funding and is able to keep up operations through donations and grants.   

“There is no standing public money in West Virginia to fund search and rescue operations,” said Lee Fuell, deputy chief of rescue operations for MARG. “We are totally dependent on donors and grantors to be able to maintain an operating budget and continue to work, so we are very grateful – no amount is too small.” 

On Monday Dec. 18, Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) at Suncrest Towne Centre will make it a little easier for community members to donate to MARG by offering patrons the opportunity to donate a portion of their bill to the MARG organization. 

The restaurant promises to donate 15% of the total bill to MARG — not including tax, gratuity, alcohol or promotional discounts — for anyone who dines at the restaurant from 4-9 p.m. Monday evening.  

However, the donations will not be made automatically.  

A press release regarding the event from MARG said in order to participate in the one-day fundraiser, individuals must dine at the Suncrest Towne Centre Buffalo Wild Wings location during the designated hours (4-9 p.m.) and must mention the fundraiser or present the fundraiser flyer to their server. The flyer is posted to the Mountaineer Area Rescue Group Facebook page. 

Donating will not add to the overall cost of patrons’ bills. 

The fundraiser is made possible by the Buffalo Wild Wings Foundation’s Eat Wings, Raise Funds Program and will correspond with MARG’s annual Christmas party. 

MARG President Andrew Kapaldo said funds raised at the event play a crucial role in helping the organization maintain and improve search and rescue capabilities and provide essential resources for dedicated MARG volunteers.  

“Buffalo Wild Wings’ generosity in providing a space for our event and hosting the fundraiser is truly appreciated, and we are looking forward to an amazing evening,” Kapaldo said. “To all those planning to dine and contribute, your support means the world to us, and we’re excited to make this fundraiser a success together.” 

Most MARG members live in Monongalia and Preston counties and surrounding areas and will respond to any location within a two-hour drive of Morgantown — sometimes farther if needed.  

This year, MARG responded to multiple counties to offer search and rescue assistance. 

Earlier in 2023 in Tucker County, Fuell said they aided in search for a man who had gotten lost in the snow. Just a few months ago the group helped organize the large-scale, multi-agency search for a Preston County woman who had been missing for several weeks. Both searches were successful in locating the subject, but both were found deceased. 

On two occasions this year, MARG assisted Preston County agencies with incidents that resulted in helicopter hoist rescues by Maryland State Police where subjects had to be air-lifted from their locations. 

“The first was an overnight search for an elderly Rowlesburg man who had wandered away,” Fuell recalled.  “The second was on the Big Sandy Creek in support of Bruceton-Brandonville VFD.” 

MARG members also occasionally assist law enforcement with their investigations to some degree. 

“There was a homicide investigation in Harrison County that some of our HRD (human remains detection) handlers participated in,” Fuell said, “and we assisted the Mon County Sheriff’s Office with a gentleman who went missing from the Mileground recently.” 

As a member of the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference (ASRC) – a community of seven search and rescue groups spanning from Columbus, Ohio, through the Blue Ridge area of Virginia – MARG isn’t necessarily restricted to the local area. 

According to the press release, the group works with many emergency service organizations across the region and will respond outside its normal service area in response to a mutual-aid request from any of those groups. 

Fuell said that a mutual-aid agreement between MARG and Mon EMS is moving forward and making progress. 

The agreement allows MARG personnel who have both search and rescue skills and state EMS credentials to operate as a Mon EMS provider and use Mon EMS equipment to take full-service care to the patient that is beyond the reach of conventional care. 

“We got eight more MARG members credentialed this year as affiliate EMS providers with Mon EMS so they can provide EMS quality care here in the county to anyone out in remote locations,” Fuell said. 

Fifteen MARG members got their certification for rope rescues this year as well, he said, thanks to the group hosting a rope operations rescue class funded with a grant from the Gary Sinise Foundation and taught by Red River Rescue out of Stanton, Ky.   

The group would like to continue to expand its capabilities but cannot do that without donations.

If you cannot attend the fundraiser on Monday at Buffalo Wild Wings, donations are accepted by the group at any time. Donations are always accepted on their website For more information visit their website or the Mountaineer Area Rescue Group Facebook Page. 

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *