HELPING HANDS: Chinchilla Drought Angels Nicki Blackwell and Tash Johnston in Ilfracombe.
HELPING HANDS: Chinchilla Drought Angels Nicki Blackwell and Tash Johnston in Ilfracombe. Contributed

Drought Angels raise $150k for battling farmers

AS THE 67km-long Burrumbuttock Hay Runners convoy cruised into Blackall for a lunch stop on Friday afternoon, Drought Angels' Tash Johnston stood in the middle of Blackall's main street, waving to the trucks as they lumbered through town.

"It's a pretty damn good sight," Ms Johnston told the Chinchilla News at the time, laughing with amazement and relief.

Over five-and-a-half months, Ms Johnston and Nicki Blackwell, in conjunction with NSW farmer Brendan Farrell had been organising the record-breaking hay run.

"It's a bit overwhelming I think. You spend months and months and months planning and dreaming and to see it all come together - it's amazing," Ms Johnston said.

Trucks honked their horns in celebration as they drove through Blackall on to the final destination of Ilfracombe.

Chinchilla's Drought Angels were instrumental in making the run a reality, helping fundraise over $150,000 to pay for the convoy's fuel, as well as groceries, pre-paid visa cards, and hay.

Drivers came from all around the country to deliver more than 5000 donated bales of hay.

There were 124 trucks on the run that started at Darlington Point in NSW on January 7.

 

Drought Angel Tash Johnson, Calvin Bartley (Emerald), Lynn Bartley (Emerald), Brenden
Drought Angel Tash Johnson, Calvin Bartley (Emerald), Lynn Bartley (Emerald), Brenden "Bumper" Farrell (Burrumbuttock Hay Runners), Lance Murphy (Dubbo West Rotary) and Drought Angel Nicki Stansbie. contributed

Five more met up with the convoy of 119 at Cunnamulla to deliver hay some 1860km to Ilfracombe, situated just south of Longreach. The convoy reached the dusty outback town around dusk on Friday night.

A passing rain storm wet the earth and settled the dust for about an hour, until a billowing dust storm swept over the town as the hay bales were being unloaded.

Ms Johnston said the appreciation from locals was plain to see.

"One particular couple, this was the first help they'd ever received," she said.

"So we loaded up the back of their car with the hamper, extra dog food, water melons and the care packs.

"(The husband) came over and gave me this big cuddle and a kiss and he had sunglasses on but I knew what was going on behind those sunnies.

"When you have people who come up and give you a hug and say thank you like that, that's why we do it.

"You know you're making a difference and they know they aren't forgotten."

Local artist Jane Zerbst joined the 18-odd Drought Angels volunteers who made the trip north to Ilfracombe.

On Saturday night, as the kids took to Ilfracombe's oval for a hit of cricket, the town gathered at the sports and recreation centre for a barbie and get together.

Ms Zerbst, who provided entertainment for part of the night, said the evening provided the locals with a reprieve from the reality of the drought.

"It was a chance for them to get off the farm, get out of the house and catch up with some of their neighbours and friends from other properties without, I guess, the financial burden that goes with that."

Ms Johnston made special mention of local company Erb Bros Transport.

"They cart everything for us for no charge. They donate the trucks, the fuel, the drivers," she said.

"We don't exist without them."

 

HOW TO HELP

Bank transfer - Commonwealth Bank.

Account Name: Drought Angels

BSB: 064409

Account Number: 10175749

Or visit www.cfsc. org.au and click "donate now".

Cheques or pre-paid visas can be posted to:

Drought Angels P/O Box 397 Chinchilla Qld 4413


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