Thursday, October 26, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life


Region’s Rescuers ‘Gob-Smacked’ By Record Donation

One of Mackay’s smallest schools has shown enormous heart with an incredible, record donation to the region’s rescuers.

Chelona State School fundraised an incredible $13,000 for RACQ CQ Rescue during Rescue Chopper Week and has now set their sights on reaching a target donation of

$15,000 by next Friday.

The blue and yellow Bell 412 rescue helicopter landed on the oval last Friday morning, about 15km south of Mackay, to thank the students and teachers for their fundraising efforts ahead of their school fun run.

Chelona Teacher Amy Privileggio said the school community felt RACQ CQ Rescue was an important charity as a number of families had actually used the lifesaving service.

“Through our school fun run we’ve raised $12,090.22 for RACQ CQ Rescue which is just fantastic for such a little school,” she said.

“Our fun run is being held today but our fundraising is ongoing and already this morning, it's increased by another $1000 to $13,000. We actually expect that the total amount raised will continue to climb in the next week.”

RACQ CQ Rescue confirmed it was a record amount for a school donating to the rescue chopper service.

Chelona School Soars In Fundraising Efforts For RACQ CQ Rescue

Ms Privileggio said the rescue helicopter was often seen overhead the school by students and was an absolutely vital service in the community.

“There’s a few of our families who have actually used the chopper so we wanted to do this fun run to raise funds for such an important charity,” she said.

“We only have 110 students at our school and most of those are fundraising for the fun run, with some of our kids actually raising over $1000 alone, so that's just amazing.”

The students were also given an extra incentive to reach fundraising targets, she said.

“If they reached $10,000, the students got to slime teacher Mr Matthews and we've decided today if they can now reach $15,000 by next Friday, they also get to slime the school principal Ms Brown as well as some of the RACQ CQ rescue crew,” she said.

Chelona teacher Kym Marshall admitted she was incredible emotional and had goosebumps watching the rescue helicopter landing on the oval today as it was a traumatic reminder of when her son was airlifted to hospital by RACQ CQ Rescue in March last year.

Eight-year-old Hunter suffered serious abdominal injuries while bull riding near Bloomsbury.

“I was riding a mini bull and I got my hand stuck in a rope and I was dragged along the ground,” the Year 4 student said.

“It (the bull) stood on me and sliced open my stomach, so I had to go to hospital.” Hunter was airlifted by RACQ CQ Rescue from Proserpine to Mackay hospital for further treatment.

“I remember a little bit of going in the helicopter, but it got me to Mackay a lot quicker than going by road,” Hunter said.

He said it felt “pretty good” about the school donating a record amount to the service which cared for him after such a frightening ordeal.

“I raised $75 for the chopper through our school fun run because it’s pretty important to help keep the chopper in the air to help other people like me.”

The Sammut family, including dad Chris, mum Trish, and students Kiara, Miley, Zachary and Nicholas, were also airlifted by the rescue helicopter back in 2017 when their Homebush home was inundated by floodwaters in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie. Another Chelona parent, Helene Bezzina, said members of her family had also used the service after accidents on cattle properties and that her father had also been airlifted by RACQ CQ Rescue with a medical condition.

The highest fundraiser for the Chelona School fun run was Harry Silling ($1270), followed by runner-up Jackson Wynn ($1150) and Nash Milburn ($520). The Sillings, including Evelyn, Harry, Jack and mum Patrice were the family who raised the most amount of money.

Year 6 student Sam Bezzina said it was quite exciting to see the rescue helicopter land on their school oval and chat to the crew this morning.

“It’s good to see them land here – it was really cool,” he said.

Sam said he was looking forward to the fun run and enjoying some time on the large jumping castles with his friends.

RACQ CQ Rescue Media and Communications Manager Naomi Noy said the service was “gob-smacked” by the amount raised by such a small school.

“They’ve done a phenomenal job fundraising – it’s an absolute record amount for a school donating to our rescue chopper service. We couldn’t be more grateful for their efforts,” she


“We’re absolutely thrilled to land here at Chelona today to thank the school as each year we have to raise about $5 million to keep the service up in the air. It costs about $11,500 each hour to have the helicopter on task and we have a huge workload.

“We’ve already flown 587 missions this year, so that’s a lot of lives touched and changed by the rescue chopper in this community.

“But today, the real heroes are these incredible kids and the amazing donation they’ve made to this vital service.”

The Sammut family, including mum Trish, Miley, Zachary and Nicholas enjoyed a viewing of the RACQ CQ Rescue Bell 412 helicopter at the Chelona State School landing last Friday. The family were airlifted by RACQ CQ Rescue during Cyclone Debbie in 2017. Photo credit: RACQ CQ Rescue

Chelona student Hunter Marshall with crew from left, rescue crew officer Jarrod Healey, air crewman Mick Di Stefano and pilot Leigh Wilkinson. Hunter was airlifted by RACQ CQ Rescue last March

Hunter Marshall in the pilot seat of the Bell 412 helicopter

Hunter Marshal and his mother, Chelona teacher, Kym Marshall

Chelona State School captains with RACQ CQ Rescue crew from left, pilot Leigh Wilkinson, air crewman Mick Di Stefano and rescue crew officer Jarrod Healey

Chelona fundraising heroes Jackson, Harry and Nash

Entire school of 110 students with the chopper

Crew talk to students

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