Balloons lead couple to love
FACE-PAINTER Donna Starr-Walker and balloon-twister Tony Batchelor bring a lot of laughter and joy into other people's lives.
But perhaps it's the happiness that this unlikely Lismore double-act has found in each other after enduring their own challenges that is the most heart-warming.
Donna, a single mum of four, including one child with special needs, met Tony, 19 years her senior, six months ago.
Tony was living with Donna's uncle Ray Perry in a home supported by the Lismore Soup Kitchen.
When Donna paid a visit to Uncle Ray, there was an instant rapport with Tony despite the age difference between the pair.
Two months after their relationship began, inspired by seeing the fun Donna brought into people's lives with her face-painting, Tony decided to develop his own act.
The 59-year-old spent hours teaching himself how to sculpt balloons into various shapes by watching videos on YouTube.
He's honed his balloon therapy to a point that he can now recreate anything from animals, flowers, soccer balls and cartoon characters.
So it was only natural the pair would team to perform at events throughout the Northern Rivers - Tony dressed as Mr Twister the clown and Donna in various outfits, from a princess to a fairy to a doll.
"We love entertaining children. I just naturally attract children; I'm a magnet, and so does Tony," says Donna.
The pair now delights in being able to earn a comfortable living from a job that brings a touch of magic into people's lives.