Kirsty Balnaves and Ellie Pollard

Graphic: Kirsty Balnaves and Ellie Pollard

Delivering the 'vinest' care: Winery donates to the RFDS after family airlifted

Date published

13 May 2022

When Kirsty Balnaves decided to give to the Flying Doctor on behalf of her family’s winery, she had no idea the impact of her donation would be felt so close to home.

Every quarter, Kirsty and her team at Balnaves of Coonawarra generously choose a different charity to donate the cellar door tasting fees towards – and in December 2021, the RFDS was selected as the next beneficiary.

Just weeks later, Kirsty’s daughter Ellie unexpectedly needed RFDS assistance and the winery decided to extend its fundraising efforts until the end of the 2021/22 financial year.

“We originally decided to raise money for the RFDS because my mother had been airlifted,” Kirsty said.

“Then my daughter, who had only just turned 20, was airlifted in mid-January. 

“She initially just had a cough but became very sick. She ended up with severe necrotising pneumonia and required surgery to have part of her lung removed.”

After rushing to Adelaide to spend time with Ellie during her recovery, the Balnaves family decided they would fundraise for the RFDS for a total of seven months.

Kirsty said the support from the RFDS crew was “amazing”, especially as COVID-19 restrictions limited her from being by her daughter’s side.

“The RFDS was fabulous – the best thing someone did was hold her hand and tell her everything will be alright. Ellie said that made a such a difference to her,” she said.

“Apart from me trying to drive her to Adelaide myself earlier, I don’t know what we would’ve done.”

RFDS patient transfer at Mount Gambier
Photo: Ellie was airlifted to Adelaide for urgent treatment.

Ellie said the care she received from the RFDS crew helped ease the “scary situation”.

“It was quite overwhelming and particularly hard being on my own due to COVID restrictions,” Ellie said.

“The RFDS crew was lovely – as soon as I got on the plane I felt like I was in the right spot. They talked me through everything, reassured me of what was happening, and I immediately felt safe.

"For us living in the country and in a rural area it’s such a great service and now I’ve seen first-hand the difference it makes."

Over the course of the fundraising period, the Balnaves family raised a whopping $15,000 for the Flying Doctor.

“We charge five dollars a head and some people pay more when they find out where the money is going,” Kirsty said.

“One hundred per cent goes to the chosen charity."

Balnaves of Coonawarra
Photo: Balnaves of Coonawarra will be raising funds for the RFDS until the end of July 2022.