The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service (WRHS) will be able to continue its life saving work in Moree and the wider region, thanks to a significant donation from the Moree Weebolla Bulls Ladies Day committee.
WRHS Moree Support Group president Jane Rohde was overwhelmed by the size of the donation, particularly as the whole community is struggling with the drought, and said it can give people peace of mind that the rescue chopper can continue to service Moree 24/7 all year round, at no cost.
"That's amazing, thank you so much," she said to the ladies day committee.
"It means the service will continue to run, free for anybody in this region."
"It's so hard in these conditions to expect donations and to have to go back to the community all the time, so that amount, it just means so much," Moree Support Group committee member Phil Rohde added.
"That means we have a little breathing space. We don't like asking for money when we're this deep into the drought."
Living within the chopper's flight path to Moree, Jane and Phil know all too well how often the service is utilised in this area alone, and as a result, just how vital fundraising is for the chopper, which relies on donations to continue to be able to operate 24/7 as a free service.
"I've been involved in pony club and the show all my life and have had to call the chopper for children who have come off horses," Jane said.
"It saves lives. It takes eight minutes for the crew to get in the chopper and then 45 minutes from Tamworth to here. The new AW139 helicopters can carry paramedics, a doctor, a winch guy and a pilot."
Ladies Day committee member Nicole Youngberry said they were thrilled to be able to donate $20,000 to the WRHS, especially considering the tough year.
"We're just so proud to be able to donate this much in these circumstances," she said.
"At the start of the year we decided to support the one charity at both events [the ball and ladies day] because we knew we wouldn't be able to raise as much as last year's ladies day. Sponsorship was down this year, so we were concerned with the level we'd be able to donate.
"We're really pleased that this amount can go to the Westpac helicopter to keep it local."
Moree Rugby Union Club president Paul King said it all comes down to the generosity and spirit of the Moree community.
"It's just another tribute to the Moree community, they've dug deep again," he said.
"It is a great honour for the rugby club to be that vehicle to raise these funds, but without the community, it wouldn't happen.
"The support we get, just as a rugby club, is amazing and that flows on to the community because it means we're able to support charity that's local.
"Full credit goes to these ladies on the committee. All things considered, to raise that amount of money is incredible."
The Ladies Day funds will stay locally, to be used for the New England North West service.
The funds were raised through the raffles and auctions at both the Black Tie Ball and Ladies Day, with all prizes generously donated by local businesses. Five WRHS Moree Support Group members - Jane and Phil Rohde, Trish Winter, Rosemary Shepherd and Gary Cosh - volunteered at Ladies Day, helping out on the gate and the raffle table.
This year's fundraising takes the total Ladies Day fundraising over the past three years to an impressive $56,000. Last year, a record $30,000 was raised for Moree Hospital's Oncology Unit, and in 2017, the committee donated $6,500 to the Black Dog Institute.
The current Ladies Day committee will all be stepping down at the end of this season to focus on their families, so the club will be looking for new committee members next year. If you are interested, contact the club on (02) 6752 4445.
The WRHS Moree Support Group is also always looking for more volunteers and committee members. If you would like to get involved, call 1800 155 155 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.