Excitement reached fever-pitch on 14th August when we finally drove our brand new van back from the factory.
We have spent the past two and a half years raising money to buy a motorhome to be converted into a Mobile Care Unit for the treatment of injured and sick native wildlife in Sydney and beyond.
When the idea was hatched by my crazy partner-in-crime and fellow wildlife rescuer, Joan, we did some research and realised that we needed at least $200,000 to buy and re-fit a secondhand van. We had no idea how we would ever raise that kind of money! My daughter, Kayleigh (who was 13 at the time) booked meetings with local and state politicians to discuss our vision. We tried to get sponsorship, we applied for grants, we begged car dealerships for help, etc. We were unsuccessful on all counts. BUT we aren’t easily dissuaded from our goals so we decided to just raise the money ourselves. Luckily we had the backing of our wonderful Sydney Wildlife Board who gave us the nod to undertake all manner of fundraising activities.
Two very special and very steadfast supporters - who believed in us implicitly - offered to help us with the first step. Without them, we never would have managed to reach our goal or even known where to start. Those two people are Sue and Peter Glasson. The Glassons have always been extremely generous and have offered their gorgeous home and garden in Bayview as a fundraising venue for charities for many years. Sue and Peter adore animals and take great pleasure in watching the possums and birds in their garden. They offered to kick off the fundraising venture with a light lunch in their magnificent gardens. We had auction items, jellies and jams, wonderful food on offer (thanks to the Grindrod Girls), plenty of refreshments and heaps of generous people. We raised $26,000!
Our second fundraiser was very challenging. We were asked by a multitude of people to hold a Black Tie Ball! Joan and I are wildlife rescuers - we are always in jeans and boots and generally covered in mud, dirt and animal dung... How on earth could we manage to pull off a Black Tie function!?! We decided to enlist the help of the Big Guns - some ladies who had organised a sophisticated soirée or 10 in their lifetimes... Ali Wattlington and Lisa Johnston. The result was an elegant Gala held at the Cardinal’s Palace on the hill in Manly which was awash with celebrities and beautiful people. We had esteemed opera singer, Phoebe Humphreys; professional dancers from Arthur Murray; we even had Jason Morrison (head of Channel 9) as our MC and the Snake Boss as our Auctioneer! Before expenses, we raised $80,000!!!
Our third fundraiser was held again in the glorious gardens of the Glassons. This time it was a Garden Party and Art Gallery with a string quartet for entertainment and a live Auction.
Justine Steward, Jenny Sistrom and their team of culinary helpers provided the delicious lunch and Lorraine Woodward and Laurie Sword beautified the Garden Gallery with their incredible works of art. We had Tame and Wild Studio exhibiting their sublime wildlife photography and the Woods family kept everyone in raptures with their adorable phasmids. We had native plants for sale, thanks to Sonja Elwood and the Northern Beaches Council and Jo Pigram entranced guests with her skills as a Tarot Card reader in a lavishly-decorated mystical tent. Our official photographer extraordinaire, Nicole, was taking photos of all the happenings and managing to be in five places at once to capture all the magic. Our indomitable Chair, Deb Kerr, pulled at many heart-strings and purse-strings with her impassioned speech and Joan Pearson managed to extract every dollar from people with some form of voodoo magic at the end of the Auction. Mona Vale Vet brought many of us to tears by committing to provide all medications - forever - as well as offering to buy our treatment table. All of this, teamed with Ravi aka Mr Bubbles’ generous ‘drinks top-ups’ resulted in poor Diane being inundated with donations and payments and she was catching money mid-air! What a sensational treasurer!
We reached the magic number and with $200,000 in the bank we could start looking for a van!
In April we found exactly what we wanted - a Jayco Conquest FA 25-1. And because Jayco Sydney gave us such a good deal, we were able to afford a brand new one!
We were allowed to make a few decor choices but the main thing would be getting internal modifications done. The team at Jayco were so helpful that they offered to do the modifications for us at their cost and they threw in a generator!
And so - on Wednesday 14th August - we drove out to St Marys to pick up our gorgeous new van. We have since been working on getting all the equipment installed and getting the logo and graphics onto the vehicle.