Rescue helicopter doorknock down

BALLINA High School student Ben Christensen Gibson knows how much the community supports the Westpac Rescue Helicopter service.

In just one week, the Year Nine student raised $2000 by walking the streets of Ballina Island, knocking on hundreds of doors.

Compared to last year, when he raised $1300, this year is better than ever.

But the same can't be said of the hundreds of other volunteers who reported a downturn in public offering towards the vital service.

Helicopter service chief executive Kris Beavis said this year's target of $150,000 fell short by $50,000, which meant the service would have to find other ways to raise the necessary money.

That was already happening in Coffs Harbour and Grafton where the service also runs op shops to earn cash.

A lack of volunteers in Lismore, Mullumbimby, Ballina and Evans Head meant fewer 'feet on the street', said Mr Beavis. As well there were a number of school children who had offered to take part in the fundraiser but failed to show up on the day.

The Victorian Bushfire Appeal and the general economic downturn both hit the hip pocket which helped to work against this year's helicopter appeal.

“But the important thing for people to understand is that they can't take the service for granted,” Mr Beavis said.

That's because the NSW Government demands that a set amount of the helicopter's $5.5m annual budget be raised by the community.

Stalwart organisations remain behind the service, like the Westpac Bank which donates the lion's share each year, and the Northern Co-operative Meatworks and Cassino Hide Tanners, both of Casino, where employees have donated more than $1.5 million since the early 1980s.

“Those businesses have a culture of support towards us,” Mr Beavis said. “They are fantastic supporters.”

If people still wish to donate to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter service they can do so online at www.helirescue.

DO YOU SUPPORT OUR RESCUE HELICOPTER? Phone 6624 3266 or SMS 0428 264 948

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