Share the Story:

There are over 850 ‘red shirts’ across Northern NSW raising money to help keep the Westpac Rescue Helicopter in the air for anyone who finds themselves having possibly the worst day of their life.

It costs approximately $40 million a year to keep the Service’s four helicopters and crew in the air. Of that, 14 million is raised through the community and the remainder through contracts with NSW Health and NSW Ambulance.

210 people volunteer for the service across the Hunter Valley, Upper Hunter, Mid North Coast and Central Coast and another 640 people volunteer throughout the northeast, northwest and northern regions of the state. 

These volunteers are everyday people who simply want to do what they can to help keep the Service in the air. Here’s a few of their stories.

The $14 million is raised by the community through volunteering, corporate partnerships, workplace giving programs, events and other donations. If you want to help, go to https://rescuehelicopter.com.au/you-can-help/
ATCF 6 7 Singleton


One community led event that grows in popularity every year is the Paxton Pub Ride in the Hunter Valley. In its first year, the event raised $1000, but in 2023, the event’s fifth year, it raised more than $44,000 for the Service. 

The event was started by Derek Van Eden whose ride with mates in the Watagan Mountains in 2016 took a horrific turn. 

Derek and his mates took an annual pilgrimage to Paxton Pub on their bikes, staying overnight and heading home the next day. 

Derek’s best mate Scott performed first aid until help arrived – NSW Ambulance Paramedics were on scene but called in the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to winch Derek out of the bush. 

Derek suffered broken ribs, fractured vertebrae in his spine and a broken pelvis. Doctors later told him that he was a millimetre off being unable to walk or ride his motorbike ever again.

“My first day out after three months of hospital I went to the KTM dealership at Broadmeadow and looked at a bike and went across the road and took three cases of beer to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter boys.”

Derek was determined to get back to his annual pub ride with his mates and he did. But the ride meant a little more since his accident. 

The ride became a fundraiser for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and Derek with his best mates Darrell Keeling and Simon Debono, are hoping to raise $50,000 at the event this year in June. 

Once you’ve been involved with it, Derek said the Service is life changing. 

ATCF 6 7 Paxton

“Volunteering, if you can donate in any way, one day or hopefully never whether it’s you or a loved one they might need that service so it is crucial that it is there for everyone whenever they might need it.”

Derek has worked in the mines for 17 years, currently employed full time at Centennial’s Mandalong mine at Lake Macquarie. He’d seen the importance of the helicopter well before his own accident which further prompted him to support the service in whatever way he could. 

“I worked at Integra for years and I was there when they had a bad longwall, and the helicopter was there once a week. One time in the bus to go underground there were too many, so I hopped out and the man who hopped into my seat ended up being choppered out that day.”

The service responds to incidents in mining towns frequently, and mines across NSW contribute to the service every year through donations, events, volunteers, Workplace Giving Programs and more. 

Derek is looking for sponsors for this year’s event. Reach out to him at: derek.vaneden@gmail.com


Dan Lincoln is on a fundraising mission for the long run. He first learned about the Service through a colleague whose daughter was saved by the Service, and he felt compelled to help in some way.

So, Dan decided to raise money by completing 8 half marathons in 2024, one in every state and territory in Australia. This challenge will see him run a total of 168-kilometres.

Dan has already started, completing the Half Marathon in Hobart in January with his Half Marathon Mission already having raised more than $1600.

“I work in affordable and social housing and am passionate about helping people at their most vulnerable. Misfortune doesn’t discriminate and anyone can find themselves in need of housing help as the result of a twist of fate or accident.

“No one ever expects to need emergency assistance and in remote parts of NSW, that help is not always easy to come by.

“Knowing that the Rescue Helicopter can help those most vulnerable in an emergency really strikes a chord with me.”

The next stop for Dan is Canberra and Newcastle in April, then Noosa in QLD, Uluru, Adelaide, Melbourne and finally Freemantle in WA in November.

You can donate to Dan’s Marathon Mission at:  https://events.rescuehelicopter.com.au/fundraisers/Dan-Lincoln/half-marathon-mission
ATCF 6 7 Dan


While individuals work away raising thousands of dollars for the Service, the 38 Volunteer Support Groups across NSW are busily doing the same. 

These Volunteer Support Groups fundraise in a multitude of ways, doing everything from sausage sizzles to golf days, gala dinners, horse rides and pig races. These events are all supported by local businesses and organisations.

The support groups are dotted right across the state from Singleton to Merriwa, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Lightning Ridge, Bingara, Guyra, Hastings and Taree just to name a few.

The Narrabri Volunteer Support Group have long been supporters of the Service. Last year, the group donated $32,750 to the Service through all their fundraising events including their annual Charity Golf Day which has been run since 2013, cake stalls, family fun days and garden parties.

ATCF 6 7 Narrabri

The Narrabri group currently have 23 active members who are busily planning for a number of events for 2024 including the golf day which will be held in September.

Narrabri also hosted red shirts from across the New England Northwest in August last year for the Narrabri Volunteers Conference. Twenty volunteers representing the service gathered to meet with the Service management and plan the path forward for their proposed fundraising initiatives.

“There was terrific enthusiasm from all in attendance and some really positive outcomes achieved. All agreed they are looking forward to a great year ahead,” said Volunteers and Retail Manager Steve Adams.

You can join one of the volunteer groups across NSW at: https://rescuehelicopter.com.au/you-can-help/volunteer/

Share the Story: