HAWKESBURIANS might know Graeme Hutchinson as the CEO of KRE Industries (Metal and More) in South Windsor.
The successful business has been providing welding and fabrication services for the home and commercial construction industries for over 30 years.
But there’s a softer side to Mr Hutchinson. Not only is the 64-year-old East Kurrajong resident father to seven children and grandfather to ten, but he puts aside a weekend every month to help kids who are doing it tough.
Mr Hutchinson is founder and sponsor of Cowra Break Away - a camp he launched seven years ago to offer disadvantaged kids, sick kids and kids living in the care of organisations approved by DoCS (Department of Community Services) a break away from reality.
Running 11 times per year from a Friday night through to a Sunday afternoon, the program includes activities such as flying from Cowra Airport, boating and ski tubing at Wyangala Dam, and off-road carting.
“They get to do some things that they usually wouldn’t do,” said Mr Hutchinson.
“We’ve had autistic kids, and a lot of support from groups like Barnardo's, from all over the country. They come from all different areas - some are indigenous. It’s a mixture of disadvantaged kids or kids in foster care or doing it tough.
“We’re always looking for new groups to participate, so if you have a group of kids who fit the criteria I would be happy to talk to them.”
Mr Hutchinson began running the program because he has something in common with some of the camp attendees.
“I was adopted when I was four days old. The lady who adopted me who I called ‘Mum’ went into hospital and gave birth to to [a girl] who was stillborn. I was very lucky to grow up in family who was loving. We grew up with a lot of love and there are lots of kids who don’t have that opportunity,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to meet my biological mother eight years ago and she had to give me up for personal reasons. When I found her, I found out I have a brother and a sister and now we’re friends. So this story has a happy ending.
“Growing up I always wondered - every time someone said I couldn’t do something because I was adopted, I wanted to prove them wrong.
“I run a successful business and if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. Kids out there deserve something. And a lot of them come back more than once.”
Helping disadvantaged kids isn’t something new for him – he’s been doing it for many years in other programs and ventures in the district, such as Hawkesbury Good Guys, which also helped elderly residents.
A great love of his was flying down at Richmond Lowlands, which he did for more than a decade through his company Hawkesbury Powered Parachute Centre until RAAF restrictions meant he had to relocate it. He now operates the business on a more part time basis at his Cowra property. He is also a life member of Glossodia Rural Fire Brigade, and was captain for five years.
But for now Cowra Break Away is his main project. It caters for between four to twelve kids, plus their carers, and the children’s ages range from seven to 18 years old.
Participants are asked to make their own way to Cowra, and once there, all their activities, food and accommodation are paid for by Mr Hutchinson. They stay in an aircraft hangar owned by Mr Hutchinson, and they have access to a dam and property.
“If the weather turns bad there are in-hanger activities including two race simulators and a 5.4 x 1.8-metre digital, six-car slot car track,” he said.
The program relies on the help of volunteers and personnel from local service groups including Waugoola Rural Fire Service and SES, and the kids are taught about fire prevention, and get to go on rides in an off road fire tanker and on a boat in the dam.
For more information about Cowra Break Away, call Graeme Hutchinson on 0414 862 397, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.facebook.com/cowrabreakaway.
- We Are Hawkesbury, My Story, is a series of profiles of Hawkesbury personalities where we will attempt to showcase the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary.