DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — For 40 years, Premier Health’s CareFlight program has saved thousands of lives, getting emergency services to the farthest reaches of the Miami Valley — but tomorrow will mark a new era.

Candy Skidmore, who has been with CareFlight since the very beginning, is retiring Friday after a lifetime of helping others.

“It is incredibly rewarding,” Skidmore said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of the program.”

In 1981, she began her tenure with what is now Premier Health as a staff nurse on the cardiac floor at Miami Valley Hospital. Soon after, discussions began about developing a helicopter program.

“When the opportunity came up, it just seemed like the perfect fit,” she said. “I worked ICU, ER, and really liked aviation and the challenge of it. So, I thought, why not put my name in there? I started as one of the first flight nurses and have been there ever since.”

Skidmore was a flight nurse for years before becoming a CareFlight educator, manager and eventually, the program director.

In 2012, she became Premier Health’s Vice President of Emergency and Trauma Services, including CareFlight.

She has overseen incredible growth and change in the program over the years, which now has multiple helicopters and serves a 150-mile radius across the Miami Valley.

“Honestly, it’s amazing how much things have changed, improved and gotten smaller so we can fit them in the helicopter,” she said.

However, helping others has remained the most rewarding aspect of the job for Skidmore.

“We’ve had a lot of patients that come back to see us,” she said. “They want to come back, they want to see the helicopter, they want to talk to the nurses, and they want to sort of work through that situation. Those moments really stick out.”

She said that retirement will be a massive change, but she knows that she is leaving CareFlight in capable hands to continue serving the Miami Valley.

“We continue to look. We’re always doing research. What do we need to be doing differently, and how can we improve? I think that will continue to evolve with the next generation of leaders and the people that are there today,” Skidmore said. “They’re all committed. I mean, they really are. It’s an amazing group of people.”

Skidmore officially retires on Jan. 13 but said she won’t be leaving the Miami Valley anytime soon.

“We love Dayton. I’m married, have two kids, and one grandchild, so I’ll have an opportunity to spend more time with them,” she said. “We like to travel, and we’ll have some downtime to just enjoy each other’s company. I’m looking forward to it.”

As for what comes next, Skidmore said she excited to travel and spend more time with family, especially with a new grandchild on the way.