Stopping traffic — emergency service heroes stood in solidarity with their mates in the rescue choppers, rattling the buckets to gather a generous donation exceeding $44,000

Challenge is set for chopper appeal

by Andy Bryenton

Last year’s Northland Rescue Helicopter Appeal here in Dargaville was a huge success byac any definition of the term. In the West Kaipara locals, businesses, groups and individuals dug deep to stump up more than $44,000 on the day, with even more pouring into charitable bank accounts as the promotion continued throughout the month.

Chairman of Northland Emergency Services Trust, Paul Ahlers, summed up the positivity in Dargaville.

“I’m always blown away by the community spirit here,” he said, surveying the buckets and buckets of gold coins and notes, which added to the coffers of the appeal. One of the local volunteers shaking those buckets may have put a finger on the pulse of why the area generated such a generous return.

“Elsewhere we’re always pleased to see motorists with handfuls of change, gold coins in ones and twos. Here, people were pulling out tens and twenties.”

Also adding to the tally were big-hearted cheques in big denominations from the business community and local groups. Some of these came from places like Ruawai, where an aerial ambulance is a definitive lifesaver, and from the forestry sector, where having medical emergency first responders in the sky is vital. The crews of Douglas Logging, for example, competed to raise funds, with their management adding a hefty top-up.

The local Lions Club was there on the barbecue, wielding the spatula and tongs to raise yet another $850 for the cause. Along with the coins and notes came praise for the helicopter teams.

“It’s a vital service for the entire community.”

“You never know when it might be your family making the call.”

“These people are real heroes. Saving lives on a regular basis.”

“You don’t know how important it is until you need it.”

Some passersby made no comment, but the sound of car horns and hands raised in ‘thumbs up’ and ‘victory’ signs told its own story.

Every little bit makes a difference, and now the challenge is on for 2019.

Can we topple last year’s record? Will the good-natured rivalry to help the rescue choppers, between fellow event hosts in Whangarei and Waipapa, see Dargaville ring the bell with donations topping $50,000? The big winners on the day will be those in dire need, no matter what the final sum.

That’s because to keep the fleet of Sikorsky rescue choppers flying is worth every cent.

It’s estimated that in an area like Kaipara, with wide-open spaces, rugged coastlines, isolated farms and miles of highway between here and the nearest surgical facilities, the rule of 1-2-3 applies. This guideline, built on statistics from places like the US and Canada, shows that in rural areas served by an aerial rescue service, one out of every three people personally knows someone who has been rescued, two out of three knows of an acquaintance or neighbour who has needed the helicopter. Absolutely, everyone does business with at least one person who has required chopper assistance.

Conversely, think of the impact of lives, which may have been lost if the service were grounded. In our small towns, such losses would be impossible to countenance. Perhaps that’s some of the reason for the Kaipara’s historic generosity.

This year Dargaville Ford is once again playing host to a Northland Rescue Helicopter appeal breakfast, on Thursday, November 14. From 6am there will be a chance to come down and participate in the action, alongside More FM’s radio hosts. Grab a barbecue breaky, drop a donation in the bucket, and take part in some fun and games designed to promote this vital service in our region. Everything we can do as both individuals and as a community will be accepted with grateful thanks, not just by the folks who administer the Rescue Helicopter Trust and those who fly hundreds of missions every year, but also by the people who are carried to safety by the rescue chopper fleet. They, their families and friends all have reason to be thankful.

Please dig deep and keep the choppers flying!