Stepping it up
SHEILA Aveling has led an interesting life and will call on her varied life experiences when she sets off on the 37km coastal walk from Ballina to Byron Bay on Sunday.
The Ballina resident will be one of many taking part in the Lismore Westpac Rescue Helicopter fundraising walk.
Aveling has enjoyed an active lifestyle, from sailing yachts around the globe to now, on an almost daily basis, walking from Ballina to Lennox Head in preparation for the event that will celebrate 30 years of community service.
Aveling sailed on a German Admiral's Cup team as a 16-year-old, crewed on a victorious British Admiral's Cup team, sailed the infamous Fastnet race and the Sydney to Hobart classic.
"I was 16 and amongst young, gorgeous looking Germans," Aveling recalled.
"I thought I'd died and gone to heaven."
How does a young English girl score a berth on a German yacht?
Her father was the principal of a British sail-making business manufacturing sails for the German Admiral's Cup boat, and he put her name forward as an experienced sailor when the crew needed a late replacement.
Aveling's appreciation for the Lismore Westpac Rescue Helicopter dates back to 1991 when she was airlifted to Brisbane after going into premature labour.
"It was very emotional," Aveling said.
"But everyone in the helicopter was very calm and reassuring."
The helicopter got Aveling to Brisbane and her son is now a healthy 21-year-old.
"He was a gift baby," she said.
"Having a child at 40 was waiting until the last minute."
This is not the first time Aveling has been involved in milestone celebrations for the chopper.
Her friend Robyne Jack was injured in a car accident in 2000 and it was thought she would never walk again.
"If the helicopter hadn't been there with their considerable expertise she'd have still been in a wheelchair," Aveling said.
"We decided we wanted to do something and it happened to coincide with the 20-year anniversary.
"We thought that a fun thing to do would be to have a walk from Tintenbar to Lismore.
"It was celebrating that Robyne could walk."
Aveling is excited about the Ballina to Byron Bay Charity Walk and the 30-year anniversary link.
"It's terrific to get involved in and I thought what a fantastic thing to achieve; to walk from Ballina to Byron Bay," she said. "I'd like to try but it's a fair whack."