RFDS supporters are a different breed. They see a need, a problem or a fellow Queenslander in need and they want to help in any way they can. Just like Don Chandler.
In April, Don rode 1237km from Brisbane to Longreach for the seven-day RideWest in support of the RFDS. For Don, the ride was very personal, and as emotionally draining as it was physically challenging. It was the RFDS work that brings mental health resources to remote Queensland that pushed him on through the 240km days of riding and subsequent aching muscles. Even with a team of riders and a cold beer at the end of the day, that’s a big ask.
Don’s day job is in Brisbane, working in the CBD, but although he may live the life of a city slicker, his heart is in rural Queensland. He grew up the youngest of four boys on a sheep and cattle property near Barcaldine. He's seen firsthand how hard life can be for rural Queenslanders, not just physically but mentally. Mental health can be a hidden disease as Don is acutely aware. He dedicated his ride to Pru Chandler, his niece, whose life was cut short at 31 due to complications arising after a long struggle with anxiety and mental health issues.
The same month as the ride, Don also lost a schoolmate to suicide. The death of two people from different areas of his life was a tragic blow that left him shocked, but even more determined to fundraise for the RFDS.
RideWest started nine years ago when Queensland businessman Les Hancock learnt the suicide rate of outback Queensland graziers was 30 per cent higher than Queenslanders living elsewhere. RideWest 2018 riders and sponsors raised a total of $340,000 smashing their goal of over $1million for the RFDS since its inception.
“They really do unbelievable work in challenging conditions,” he said. “If you learn about the people and places they get to, the stories of retrieval and survival are extraordinary. They are not like a normal clinical hospital situation, they adapt brilliantly.”
Don has raised $29,222.56 for RideWest even though he didn’t initially think the ride was for him! He had thought about doing it in the past but always thought it was out of his league.
After completing the ride he said he felt fitter than he had in 30 years.
“I have lost a bit of weight,” he said. “The team has been truly wonderful. I can tell you they have pushed me up some hills and there have been days (during training) when I have fallen into my car to drive home.”
At 53 with a fulltime job, four children and all the responsibilities that come with a career and a family, Don is a typical Queenslander and a typical RFDS supporter – he saw a need, a problem and a fellow Queenslander in need and he reached out and made a difference.
Thank you RideWest for your donation to mental health services in western Queensland.