THE founder of Devon Air Ambulance has been awarded the title “Life President” by the charity.

Ann Ralli began the Ceri Thomas appeal following the tragic loss of her son when he was knocked from his bicycle near Sidmouth.

Ann Ralli, second left, with members of her family and some of the DAA paramedics last year.  AQ 3244
Ann Ralli, second left, with members of her family and some of the DAA paramedics last year. AQ 3244 (Alan Quick, Crediton Courier)

When Ann asked doctors what could have saved her son, she was told that the quicker a patient receives treatment, the better their chance of survival. This stayed with Ann, and she launched the “Ceri Thomas Appeal” to raise funds to get an Air Ambulance for Devon.

Six years later, after holding countless fundraisers, liaising with many council, health, and aviation officials, and gaining the vital support of those in her local community and across Devon, Devon Air Ambulance (DAA) was launched in 1992.  

During the past three decades Ann has continued to play a vital role as an ambassador for the charity and to thank her for her determination, commitment and incredible support, the charity recently announced that she is to be awarded the title of Life President of Devon Air Ambulance.

Ann with Ceri.
Ann with Ceri. (Ann Ralli)

Heléna Holt, Chief Executive Officer at Devon Air Ambulance said: “Ann has been and continues to be the most inspiring person I have met.

“She achieved remarkable things in getting Devon Air Ambulance off the ground for all of us.

“As well as the huge task of raising the funds to launch the charity, she faced significant challenges and even opposition from some of the powers that be at the time.

“The fact that she succeeded is testament to her grit and determination and I cannot imagine a better role model for this position than Ann.”

The Life President holds a prestigious and symbolic role serving as a prominent ambassador and advocate, embodying the charity's values and mission.

Although now living in the USA, Ann’s involvement still centres around representing the charity at public events, supporting fundraising efforts, and promoting the charity's work to inspire and engage with local communities.

She most recently delivered a heartwarming message of thanks to the charity’s dedicated volunteers who were attending a special Away Day which they found incredibly motivational.

In a statement about being named Life President, Ann, said: “The Devon Air Ambulance family is my passion. I started this charity so that other families did not have to lose their loved ones, like we did.

“I have been with it, every step of the way, from those dramatic and turbulent beginnings to the present day - meeting, talking to, and working with our growing Air Ambulance team.  

“I could not have achieved this without the people of Devon, who listened to Ceri’s story and understood that having an air ambulance in Devon was extremely worthwhile and very much needed.

“They backed me to the hilt and made it all possible.

“I am so proud to be receiving this recognition and I know that Ceri would be proud too that because of him, the whole county, and our air ambulance team, he has made a difference, just like he always wanted to.”

The position will be held for life, signifying Ann's continued dedication to our values, vision, and mission - to transform time critical care through prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Devon Air Ambulance is delighted to recognise her hard work and continued support with this title. 

As the charity’s Life President, Ann will continue to make a lasting impact on the charity's efforts, cementing what is already an incredible legacy. This new and exciting role provides her an opportunity to inspire positive change and contribute to the community's well-being through the charity's initiatives.

One of the Air Ambulances when it landed in Crediton.  AQ 8593
One of the Air Ambulances when it landed in Crediton. AQ 8593 (Alan Quick, Crediton Courier)

Devon Air Ambulance keeps two Air Ambulances flying and in March 2020 also introduced two Rapid Response, Critical Care Cars to its fleet of emergency vehicles.

Accidents and illness happen and when they do patients, whatever their age, circumstance or location, need specialist treatment fast.

The speed with which Air Ambulance Doctors and Paramedics can reach a patient, identify their time-critical needs and provide their specialist life-saving treatments and interventions to slow, halt or even reverse the effects of a life-threatening condition, is crucial in helping to achieve a successful outcome. 

In 2022, this life-saving service celebrated its 30th year and is funded only by the generosity of the communities, businesses and friends of Devon. In 2021 it was tasked to 1,384 missions by Helicopter and 516 missions by Critical Care Car.

The Exeter based aircraft operates until 2am every day and in 2021 was called to 276 missions in the hours of darkness using a growing network of Community Landing Sites.

Donations to the charity can be made at: .