Pupils at South Creek School in Riverstone have been gifted a brand new, 12-seater bus, in what is a true display of Hawkesbury community spirit and pitching in to meet a need.
The students at South Creek School, which specialises in nurturing potential of students with disability including Autism, and intellectual and physical disabilities, will ride the bus to and from community access programs to teach them life skills such as ordering food from a cafe.
The money for the modified Toyota Hiace bus was raised by local Lions clubs, as well as Lions Clubs International Foundation, a State Government grant and a Facebook fundraiser.
Michelle Said, South Creek School principal, said the bus would positively impact the lives of 70 school families - many of whom reside in the Hawkesbury.
"The bus will be used daily, taking students to community access programs, where they can participate in sensory programs to learn life skills - this may include hydrotherapy," Ms Said told the Gazette.
"It also allows us to connect with similar schools to meet students for sports programs for example."
The project began in March 2021, when a parent with a child at the school sent a letter to Lions Australia's Newcastle office, requesting assistance to fund a 12-seater bus. It was agreed that Lions clubs in the Hawkesbury - Richmond, Windsor, Hawkesbury South and Riverstone - would take on the project.
Windsor and Hawkesbury South clubs have since closed, but the funds they raised were sent to Richmond and Riverstone and the project continued.
The two remaining clubs were able to secure a matching grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation, while the State Government - with the assistance of Riverstone MP Kevin Connolly - donated $15,000. A further $2000 was raised via Facebook.
Mr Conolly said: "There's no program as such for this sort of thing but I was able to convince the premier to provide some support as a building block.
"It's a great pleasure to be able to meet a need you can see is there," he told the Gazette.
All up, $68,529 was raised to purchase the vehicle from Windsor Toyota, which locked in the price in August and was able to source a vehicle ahead of schedule. Modifications included flashing lights, signs, fold down steps and rails, and signwriting was completed by Wallace & Wallace Signs at North Richmond. John Kohnke from Kohnke's Own supplements for horses in South Windsor provided a substantial donation.
Lions Clubs International Foundation coordinator, Diane Sherrington, said the bus was "a great Christmas present for the children and staff who will get the benefit of transport when and where they need it".
"We are really pleased to have managed to complete this project in such a short timeframe, as between COVID and floods, we have had to cancel many of our planned market days, which are normally our biggest fundraisers," Ms Sherrington told the Gazette.
ALSO MAKING NEWS:
"During this time, we were lucky to start running meat tray raffles on Friday nights originally at Tates in Windsor, and more recently at the Richmond Inn. The support from these venues has been a lifesaver for us, as it has been a consistent means of continuing to raise funds towards our goal.
"The support of the community is most appreciated, especially when life has been throwing so many challenges at the Hawkesbury and our residents. We couldn't do it without them."
Addressing the crowd during the bus handover event, Richmond Lions Club president, Scott Hinks, said: "The significance of what we've done ... you'll see this bus rolling around for a long, long time. You'll see a lot of smiles on a lot of different kids' faces.
"We talk about what its like to be part of a community ... we're in a great part of the world."