The Westpac Helicopter Gala Dinner and Charity Auction on Saturday night raised thousands of dollars to keep the chopper flying.
The event, held at the Tenterfield Bowling Club and Motor Inn, was a great success, Westpac Life Saver Helicopter Support Group president Dodge Landers said.
“It was a very good night,” Mr Landers said. “Down a little on last year, but still a very good night.”
The annual dinner raises funds for the helicopter service, which attends accident sites, treats and transfers patients to hospital, and helps to find missing people. The chopper, sponsored by the NSW Government and Westpac Banking Corporation, flies nearly 2,000 missions a year.
The dinner raised $7250. Mr Landers had hoped this year to match, if not exceed, last year’s profits of $10,000. An auction of items that Tenterfield businesses donated raised $5250.
The Tenterfield Arts & Crafts Society and the Diggers’ Garden Club in Stanthorpe each donated $1000.
“I'm the president,” Mr Landers said, “but you can't raise that sort of money by yourself; you've got to have a lot of people help you. I'd like to thank all the people who donated items to be auctioned, and all my volunteers who helped set the tables up. I appreciate the fact that I got so much help.”
At the start of the night, Mr Landers had nearly $63,000 in his bankbook for the support group. The night’s takings will bring the amount up to nearly $70,000.
“I raised $74,000 last year,” Mr Landers said, “and I hoped to better that. I reckon I’ll get $66 or $67,000 this year, which will be really good.”
He recently received nearly $500 from the Tenterfield Showground Trust, and the football club owes him money for doing the bar at the Tenterfield Tigers’ 100th birthday last month. The credit union will also pay a cent for every dollar raised.
"The money goes straight to the Westpac helicopter,” Mr Landers said.
“It enables the Lismore helibase to operate. It costs $3.5 million every year just to keep that operational. The new helibase in Lismore cost $11 million. Westpac and the government put in 51 per cent, and blokes like me raise the other 49 per cent."
The Westpac Life Saver Helicopter Support Group, which only has 18 members, is achieving well above its weight.
"Lismore told me the other day that we raise more money per rate of population than any other support group in New South Wales," Mr Landers said.
Thanks to Mr Landers and his public-spirited group, the chopper will be there for the people of Tenterfield in their hour of need.
"Nearly my entire life is Westpac Helicopter," Mr Landers said.
As well as presiding over the support group, he also runs the Westpac Op Shop with his partner Margaret. He does two days a week at the shop, and manages stock.
Mr Landers used to be president of the Bowling Club, and vice-president of Showground Trust.
"I've given all that away just to raise money for the helicopter."
Mr Landers has never had to use the helicopter himself, but knows its importance firsthand, having done rescue work for six years in the 1970s, and served for 32 years with three different fire brigades.
"One lady has had two rides in it the last month. If you live in Tenterfield, it's 3 ½ hours in an ambulance to Lismore; it's 2 ½ , nearly three hours to Toowoomba, which is the major hospital you go to if you have a road accident. The new choppers come from Lismore to Tenterfield, and land in the oval over there in 22 minutes.
“That's the most important thing that Tenterfield has got to have.”