Drake's big-hearted gift

LAST weekend, when the Westpac Rescue Helicopter landed smack-bang in the middle of its own helicopter fundraiser in the tiny village of Drake, the importance of the service hit home - and donations flowed.

Called out to help an injured motorcyclist, the helicopter landed in the oval next to the Drake Hotel, where the Drake Progress Association's Big Day Out fundraiser was in full swing.

“When the helicopter arrived, it really hit home. It could have been any one of us needing help,” Drake Hotel owner Desley Kane said.

The isolated town, one hour from Tenterfield hospital, is surrounded by dangerous winding roads and, according to Mrs Kane, locals felt indebted to the rescue service.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter staff were overwhelmed to receive the Drake Progress Association's cheque for $31,840 from the Big Day Out event.

Drake's generosity is overwhelming when you do the sums. With a village population of 110, the cheque presented to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter represented a donation of $290 from every man, woman and child.

“A donation this large is not something we see very often. And to know it has come from a community the size of Drake makes it even more special,” the helicopter's general manager, Kris Beavis, said.

Now in its 12th year, Drake's Big Day Out drew a far-flung crowd who enjoyed a good old-fashioned day of face-painting, raffles, market stalls and jelly wrestling.

Mrs Kane urged North Coast residents to take the short trip out west for next year's event.

“The Drake Big Day Out is really on the map now,” she said.

Meanwhile, another Westpac Rescuer Helicopter fundraiser, the 2009 Yellow Pages Hell on Wheels Cycle Tour from Tenterfield to Lismore, is on the last legs of its eight-day tour.

Mr Beavis said riders were aiming to raise $52,000 during the eight-day event. Day seven of the tour will kick off today, departing Murwillumbah for Ballina with a fundraising bash at The Australian Hotel in Ballina with a band from 6pm. The ride will culminate tomorrow at the rescue helicopter base in Lismore, from 1pm. The public is welcomed to meet the riders and join them in their celebrations.

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